I’m pretty sure that the old joke – “How can you tell a publicist is lying? His lips are moving” doesn’t apply to me, and that you know that. I don’t work with a whole lot of people, and only work with people who make music that I genuinely respect. So when I say that I’m definitely dazzled by Mike Mizwinski’s CD, East Hope Avenue, please believe me. This is some strong stuff.
We connected, of course, on the GD vector – his first show was at age 9 and was “life changing.” Of course, he’d already been playing guitar for two years and been raised on Hunter-Garcia (good parents!), so perhaps that’s not surprising. He began writing songs at 10, and hasn’t stopped. After a seven-year detour into addiction, which he documents brilliantly in a couple of the songs on this CD (the title is the address of the half-way house where he did his best recovery work), he was able to re-join the living, for which I am grateful.
One reason, I think, that Miz is so damn good is that he’s deeply rooted in a place, namely the Wyoming Valley of N.E. Pennsylvania – the rough coal-country northern end of the Appalachians. You get gritty there – and any guy who can play 245 shows in a year (2010) has grit. In the course of those shows he and his band opened for Derek Trucks, Blues Traveler, Leon Russell, Shawn Colvin, Railroad Earth, Jackie Greene, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and Bob Dylan. And he’s a known associate of low friends of ours, some of the Zen Tricksters, in a mutual side band, Jam Stampede.
Whatever the source, he writes superb songs with a wide variety of shapes and textures, full of fine observation (it’s been a long time since I was in school, but I just loved “when the chalk hits the blackboard/is when you know the summer’s gone”).
“October Skies” is a big song with power chords and a screaming harp, a tribute to home and his past “but I've been on thin ice my whole life/and the/water's just too cold/So keep on shooting for the stars/or you'll end up in the mines”. Check out the guitar solo on “New Morning Sky,” where he breaks through to some faith. Listen to the suffering in “Dopesick Blues” or the sweet love song invocation in “Wink.”
There’s a tribute to 9/11, “NYC Skyline.” “3 a.m.” has a sound that could have been on an early Simon & Garfunkel album (the cello makes it!), “My Irene” is pretty as hell, and “Heels of the Day” is shattering- seemingly addressed to a backsliding recovery friend, it ends, “and if it's all just a dream,/will you wake up with me?”
You simply gotta check this out.
(long time publicist of the Grateful Dead)