HGR CD Review: Mike Mettalia & Midnight Shift

MIKE METTALIA & MIDNIGHT SHIFT – MIDNIGHT SUN (Lost World Music) From southeastern PA, Midnight Shift established their raucous blend of roots rock and blues on their first two albums, 2005’s Bullet Proof and 2011’s Rhythm Rockin’ Boogie.. For their third album, Midnight Sun, the group establishes their founder and ringleader with the new handle Mike Mettalia & Midnight Shift, and expands on their roots rock and blues foundation over 14 tracks. The group’s roots foundation expands to include some Memphis influence, likely inspired by six of the tracks being recorded at Sun Records Studio in Memphis. Elements of honky tonk, Chuck Berry and Mississippi blues also inform the songs, giving the album a wider yet consistent scope. Singing and wailing harmonica, Mettalia is flanked by guitarist Mike McMillan, bassist Paul Pluta and drummer Tim Smith; and the group is assisted by several esteemed guests such as sax player Jimmy Cavallo, harmonica greats Mikey Junior and Steve Guyger, singer April Mae (of April Mae and the June Bugs) and more. Nine of the songs are Mettalia originals, including punchy blues romps like the disc-opener “Work Don’t Work,” “the 796 (Memphis Route),” “Love Reaction,” “Built for Speed” and the instrumental “Cheat You Fair.” “Calabash” captures a hearty Jerry Lee Lewis early rock and roll vibe, while “Heartsick” and a remake of John Nemeth’s “Magic Touch” channel vintage Chuck Berry. Mettalia and Midnight Shift update Hank Williams’ “The Blues Comes Around,” which becomes a playful duet between Metallia and April Mae. The group blends rockabilly and honky-tonk on a rendition of Junior Thompson’s “Mama’s Little Baby,” while the title track “Midnight Sun” offers slow and slinky blues. Capping the album is the bonus track, a live performance of Jimmy Rogers’ “What Have I Done,” performed at the 2011 Lehigh River Blues Jam and featuring Rogers’ longtime harmonica master Steve Guyger. The performances are robust and heartfelt, making it clear that these performers thoroughly enjoyed making this music happen. The overall sound is punchy and full, and Mettalia’s production enables this set to capture the spirit and feel of early rock and blues. Midnight Sun is a rollicking, fun listen that doesn’t just herald roots rock, country and blues, but gives it a nice energetic kick in the pants as well. (The CD can be obtained through Midnight Shift’s website, www.mnightshift.com.)