This is a really fun, engaging, entertaining album. The picking & fiddling is fantastic, the singing definitely above par, and the songs are laced with enough humor and good spirit that even a song about undertakers can be cheery. It is the sort of thing that perfectly exemplifies the 70s spirit of acoustic American music. Fiddle tunes, slide guitar, driving finger-picking, and electric bass combine to give the album a great deal of diversity and fullness of sound. There’s nothing dazzlingly unique here; a lot of people were doing similar things at that time. And nothing particularly subtle either. But it’s just got something so solid and pure and enjoyable about it. And come on. Look at that guy. How could you not have fun listening to him?
On this record, we proudly present a flaming new asteroid in the darkening sky of contemporary music, Mike Cross. This young man is clearly “born to play,” for though he is only eight and a half months old, his instrumental and vocal interpretations already display a musical finesse and an understanding of the human condition which one would only expect to find in a person at least half a decade in age. The first signs of young Cross’s gift were displayed just a few hours after his birth. His father, having come to the hospital to bask in the excitement of seeing his new-born son, was chagrined to observe that when he handed the young boy a baseball bat and a ball, Mike tore the threads from the baseball, tied them to each end of the bat, and began to play booming bass runs. To complete the effect, the precocious boy launched into a highly charged vocalization of a tune he was later to call “Bassinette Blues.” Within days his father made him his first guitar out of a crush-proof cigarette box and a popsicle stick, using laminated cobwebs as strings.
Cross practiced fanatically, soaking up new ideas like a disposable diaper, and soon his talent was in demand and frequently on display at local baby showers. The gut level savagery of his vocal delivery, when juxaposed to the gentle nuances of his guitar work in such pieces as “Mama Let Me Down,” hacks new pathways into the forests of pathos, and never fails to bring tears of subliminal understanding to his listeners everywhere. But the drama and excitement of his live performances is more than just words and music united in a passionate embrace. To see his chubby body hunched over his guitar and to watch his tiny fingers flying up and down the finger board like frightened roaches running across a lunch counter is to witness the external struggle of existential man trying desperately to leap across the void between what is and what should be. The message is simple, direct, and yet somehow elusive. This album attempts to capture a little of that. Grab quickly, friends, lest it get away.
There was a time when only a handful of students and alumni in Chapel Hill, NC, showed up faithfully when entertainer Mike Cross played a local club.
Now, thirteen albums, numerous network radio and television appearances and hundreds of concerts later, things are rapidly changing. Whether he is appearing at Symphony Hall in Boston or an outdoor music festival in California, people across the country look forward to seeing their favorite fiddling storyteller and sharing the fun with friends.
Everything about Cross and his music is one cut above fantasy; his show, his music, his beginning as a musician. “The gist of it is, I got sick in a snowstorm during my junior year in college and ended up spending the night in a friend’s dormitory room,” as Cross tells it. “It turned out his roommate played the guitar.” That roommate spent the next two days teaching Cross his first chords and songs.
Now, over 20 years later, he still plays guitar – and fiddle as well – traveling coast-to-coast delighting audiences with 12-string bottleneck blues, fiery Irish jigs and a wealth of his own music and stories filled with backwoods humor characteristic of a Mark Twain or Will Rogers.
Born in Maryville, Tennessee in 1946, he grew up in the Appalachian mountains, a region well known for storytellers and songwriters. The fact that Cross originates songs and stories in this tradition is one of the few logical parts of his tale. But the logic ends here.
“The ironic thing about this is, although I grew up around a bunch of talented musicians, my great addiction in life was golf. I was a hard-core golfer from the time I was about 10 years old until I went off to college.”
“I was going to go to college and play golf on a scholarship, but I fell in love with a high school sweetheart. I thought I’d go off to college and study to be a doctor; do something solid and secure so she’d marry me.”
“We broke up when I was a freshman. I’d given up my golf scholarship and even sold my clubs, so I had to find something to replace them. I think that’s why I took up the guitar. I needed a new passion in life.”
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to make a living at playing music, because there’s no logical reason why I should be able to do it, starting out so late, not having any idea of how to perform for an audience, having a tin ear and a scratchy old voice that behaves half the time. Sometimes I come home at night and I’ll lie back in bed and think–I just can’t believe all those people came out to see me storm around on stage for a couple of hours.”
Establishing a rapport with an audience is essential to Cross . “I want people to leave a show of mine saying, ‘Boy, I had a good time’.”
Following the release of two new albums and a “Best of Mike Cross” CD on Sugar Hill, the future means more writing and recording, and many more miles of highway and skyway, constantly coming into contact with new people and places. Picking, fiddling and joking, Mike Cross lives to delight and entertain.
Label: TGS Records
1. Tanner’s Farm (2:40)
2. Big City Rambling (2:40)
3. Elma Turl (2:01)
4. Pumpkin Thyme (1:02)
5. Little Ditches (2:52)
6. Blue Ridge Lake (3:22)
7. Wisdom Or A Drink (3:10)
8. Better Times (2:32)
9a. Old Mother Flanagan (0:42)
9b. The Scotsman (2:38)
10. Leon McDuff (6:07)
11a. Last of Calahan (1:00)
11b. Lord Let Me Die (3:06)
12. The Wind That Shakes The Barley (1:44)
what they don’t wear.
vinyl rip, cleaned, w/ little blips here & there | mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/o covers
see www.mikecross.com for other releases, upcoming concerts etc.