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From the Country Standard Time Archives

They don't maker singers like Mike Ireland any more

Kendall Cafe, Cambridge, Mass., July 27, 2002

By Jeffrey B. Remz

CAMBRIDGE, MA - They don't make singers like Mike Ireland any more or at least Nashville hardly ever would take such a huge chance and put out music by someone like Ireland.

Ireland, a Kansas City resident, showed just why he is such a great singer in the second of two nights at a small club as part of a nation-wide tour with his crack three-piece backing band, Holler. In May, Ireland released "Try Again," his first album in four years on a small Boston-based label after releasing his debut on SubPop.

Ireland seems to know his way around a honky tonk or two. He can sing heartwrenching ballads without much effort, and he can go into a shuffle just as easily. The guy is just plain easy to listen to no matter what he's singing.

Most of what Ireland sings about is not exactly happy music. His first album, for example, dealt with his marital breakup. He still often explores the downside of relationships. Ireland sang Charlie Rich's "Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs" from "Try Again," and that about says the topical territory Ireland covers.

But lest listeners be held captive to a night of depression, Ireland lightened up the proceedings with his stage comments. "Anybody in the mood for more death," Ireland asked. "Murder? (To) get to the happy songs, the set's pretty much over. We got a few of them."

And Ireland was further helped by a very capable backing band including former dBer Will Rigby on drums, Dan Mesh on backing vocals and acoustic guitar and John Horton on lead guitar. Mesh did a fine job in fleshing out the songs vocally (he also took lead vocals on one song), while Horton turned in an outstanding performance on guitar. So much so that Ireland proclaimed his (musical) love for his ace guitarist.

Just why Ireland isn't far bigger is not exactly clear. Who cares if he's bald and not in the Kenny Chesney or Tim McGraw category when it comes to being telegenic? And if it's the clothes that make the show - Ireland dresses in a plain light colored long-sleeved shirt and wears dark pants - then Ireland isn't your meal ticket either.

But if it's a night of great music with fine singing, songs and stage presence, then Mike Ireland ought to be your choice.