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Mike and the Moonpies

Mockingbird – 2015 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Mike and the Moonpies

The third studio release from Austin-based Mike and the Moonpies is a mix of honky tonk, '70's outlaw country and a touch of western swing. Frontman Mike Harmeier wrote all 10 songs with mostly good results. He's at his best on the more traditional sounding honky tonk tracks on which his vocals are reminiscent of Gary Stewart, particularly with the tale of lost love "Never Leaving Texas" in which the singer's devotion to his home state is stronger than his feelings for the girl that "twirled off to L.A."

Harmeier's reverence for traditional country music is on display throughout. The closing "Miserable Man" has a Waylon Jennings feel to it, while "Song in Here" is Harmeier's affectionate salute to his old guitar's history ("Haggard signed the headstock/All the Playboys signed it too") featuring a tasteful mandolin solo from Wesley Holtsford. The western swing influence is evident on "Say it Simply" with a nice guitar solo from Catlin Rutherford, while the cheating song "South First Blvd." adds the saxophone of Joseph Serrato to the mix.

Some tracks are a bit cliched as with the opening "Smoke Em if You Got Em" and the sappy boy/girl duet with Carson McHone "I Don't Love You," but even these are nicely performed. Produced by Harmeier along with fellow Austin musician Michael Kingcaid, the instrumentation is stellar throughout with Harmeier and Rutherford joined by band mates Zachary Moulton (steel guitar), John Carbone (keyboards), Preston Rhone (bass) and Kyle Ponder (drums). Despite the missteps, Harmeier's effective vocals and the tight musicianship make this an entertaining effort.