Mike Stinson and Johnny Irion “Working My Way Down”

Blackwing, 2023

Classic southern barroom rock with hints of Big Star from reunited duo revisiting songs from 25 years back.

Recorded in May 2021, but featuring songs written 25 years before, ‘Working My Way Down’ delivers a fine rocking set, with a ‘live in the studio’ feel. Featuring Mike Stinson on drums and Johnny Irion on guitar, with vocal duties shared, five of the songs are credited to Andy Jones, from a band project never fully realised with no hope of a revival with Jones having passed away in 2009.

Opening track ‘The Bottle and Me’, written by Jones,  sets the tone from the off, an up-tempo rocker with a classic theme of the hardworking, hard-done man seeking solace in the bottle, “I go to work for forty bucks a day/ And I pay more dues than a man should have to pay/ When the boss says dig I say how deep?/ Long as he don’t come between the bottle and me.”

Mid-tempo title track ‘Working My Way Down’ has hints of psychedelia in its arrangement, perhaps reflecting former band member Jones’s best-known era as the lead member of prog-rock band Bigelf in Los Angeles. Slide guitar features prominently, as it does throughout the album.

‘Ponderosa Pine’ has an original take on similes in love songs, mid-tempo with the firm back beat that runs through the eleven tracks, kicking off with its memorable chorus “Momma you’re sweet as a Ponderosa Pine/ In the shade of your branches I want to recline/ And it’s always a heavenly climb/ Honey you’re sweet as a Ponderosa Pine.”

Hints of psychedelia feature again in ‘Cosmic Candy’, a powerful rocker with echoes of Big Star, with era-appropriate retro lyrics “Cosmic Candy is back in town/ She got out of LA boy safe and sound/ For all her subscribers they love her to death/ Serving up that old-time carney burlesque”.

‘Brand New Love Song’ adds distorted blues harp to the mix, featuring too on ‘LA Cowboy’, an ode of regret to a misspent life in LA Every swing of the bottle knocks me to the ground/ Every swing of the bottle knocks me to the ground/ But I would spend my last dollar just to stand another round/Here in this city where I don’t belong/ Here in this city where I don’t belong/ I’ll never call it home though my visit’s been many years long.”

And of course–rather like a great live set–the album closes with a full-on rocker–‘ Stranger Here Myself’- “Never thought I’d forget that feeling/ When a touch got me drunk and reeling/ Now I can’t recall the way she felt/ If I’m destined to live in harness/ I’ll need some help getting through the darkness/ I’m a stranger here myself.”

An enjoyable blend of classic barroom southern rock, with well-crafted lyrics.

7/10
7/10

About David Jarman 116 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs
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