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Mike West

 

Mike WestMIKE WEST - 16 EASY SONGS FOR DRILL & BANJO
-- Mike Butle, Rock'n'Reel, UK, Autumn '99

A maverick talent, West comes across as the bastard child of Uncle Dave Macon and Tom Lehrer. This may surprise those who only know him for the jangly teen anthems of The Man From DelMonte. Back then, Ian Brown was West's only possible rival for pop tunes and high cheekbones (The Del Montes and Stone Roses shared formative gigs in Manchester). The lop-sided haircut and mordant wit have survived intact.

From his new home in Louisiana, West has discovered an idiom (suburban hillbilly) which provides the mans and subject for all he wants to say. He writes with the detachment of the outsider, and embellishes with telling detail. His neighbours from the Ninth Ward, New Orleans, are an unending source of inspiration. Here are thieves, truckdriving absentee fathers, Jesus freaks: all the human flotsam of America's surreal daily life.

West has acquired Randy Newman's trick of inhabiting the skin of unpleasant characters, like the psycho patriarch in the murder ballad 'Melissa', or the homophobe bigot in 'Bartender Song', who once threw Frankie Ford out of his bar "when Frankie Ford started going out with men." This, to the organic accompaniment of banjo and mandolin (West's instrumental prowess has increased ten-fold since The Del Montes).

'...Drill & Banjo' is also distinguished by West's rapport with Myshkin (Wife, helpmate and fellow songwriter), who does a nice line in comic role play. The album draws the listener in with humour, but it's the perception and humanism that finally connect.

 

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