a l b u m r e v i e w s


HENRY LEE SUMMER / SMOKE AND MIRRORS
LABEL: MOON PIE RECORDS MPM 0001-2
OVERALL: 85%
Produced by: Henry Lee Summer
  1. Smoke & Mirrors
  2. Crazy One You Need
  3. Why Don't You Just Stay
  4. Hold On
  5. Queen Of The Rodeo
  6. Earth To Suzi
  7. Follow Me
  8. Put A Little Love
  9. Mississippi One
  10. I Still Remember
  11. The Grande Finale
Welcome back Henry!
After a few years break, Henry Lee Summer makes a welcome return, even if it is a little older and a little more laid back!
Via his website at www.henryleesummer.com this album is now available and I highly recommend fans of midwest acoustic driven rock and previous HLS fans to investigate post haste.
If the album was even more stripped back, it could have gone country (where there is probably more money), so thanks Henry for sticking at what you love and do best. While not everything on this album is uptempo or matches the 'rockiness' of his last outing Slamdunk, the tracks are still highly catchy and memorable and are wonderfully produced with a mix of several layers of acoustic and electric guitars and some new styles of music. In short - bloody good!
On his debut, Henry touched on some country influences and sometimes could not decide whether to rock or to twang. On the last album, rock was defiantly the go.
On Smoke & Mirrors, Summer seems to have found a more comfortable style which is a mix of blues soaked rock and mid-western semi-acoustic rock.
Henry Lee Summer has always been a great song writer, with tunes like Running Out Of Time (Slamdunk) displaying that. On his new album he has lost nothing and knows just how to hook a listener in. After including a few covers on Slamdunk, this time he has written all the tunes himself.
Opening and title track Smoke & Mirrors is a moody piece of blues rock. It's a mellow way to open an album, but works well.
Picking up the pace with Crazy One You Need is just great. Cleaver lyrics and funny chorus. Subtitled Psychotic Neurotic, this track is a good fun uptempo rocker, with a slight tingue of hoe-down country.
Why Don't You Just Stay is a mid paced acoustic rocker, with more of that mid-western blues thrown in. A good strong and catchy chorus helps also. Hold On is a moody mid paced blues tinged ballad. The chorus on this is also outstanding and is typical HLSummer. The song mixes a heartfelt vocal with layers of acoustic and electric guitars.
Queen Of The Rodeo is a weird mix of an acoustic ballad that moves half way through the song into a darker multi vocal layered chorus.
Earth To Suzi is maybe my favourite track on the album besides Cray One You Need. Starting as a organ and acordian based acoustic track, Henry's vocals ride over the track telling a story in fine fashion. The track then builds layers, adding electric guitars and drums. The chorus is laid back while catchy and adds the twang of some steel guitar.
Follow Me is a harder edge track and is more uptempo and has a little more spunk. Still, the organ runs strong and underneath the rock, the country feel is still there. Good John Mellencamp style rock.
Put A Little Love is almost the Beatles gone blues, with a psychedelic acoustic guitar feel ruling this mid pace ballad. A song without any big chorus, but several different melodies running through the song.
Mississippi One starts off slow with just a vocal over soft guitar that rises during the chorus to a mid paced bluesy lead and backing vocal. A catchy mid paced rock ballad. I Still Remember is another mid paced tune, this time a more stripped back country influenced tune. Cool electric guitar lead through the chorus and organ prominent throughout.
The Grande Finale ends the album in typical Henry Lee Summer fashion. Similar to Running Out Of Time that ended Slamdunk, this track is a little more abstract than the rest of the album and one that is moodier and hints of a more epic feel. A bluesy ballad that runs over 5 minutes and is a classy way to finish the album. Except that it doesn't! The last track is a reprise of Crazy One You Need, with little change except for maybe a more prominent guitar mix. It certainly sounds a little rougher and the vocals are maybe a little rawer.
Overall a great record filled with great songs and no fillers.
It is wonderfully produced and excellently packaged. A truly class release, almost too good to be picked up via a website. Stand by to see this album picked up by a major and in all good music stores soon.
PRODUCTION: 87%SONGS: 84%VIBE: 83%ATTITUDE: 85%
ESSENTIAL FOR: All Henry Lee Summer fans and midwestern roots/blues/rock fans.

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