BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Roots rock is such a commodity these days that most artists who craft what we now call Americana sound too studied, as if they spent more time in the Library of Congress than on stage playing their hearts out. Not so with Jim Mize. Best known for contributing the tunes “Let’s Go Runnin’” and “Emily Smiles” to the catalog of alt.country icon Blue Mountain, the Arkansas native writes songs drawing from the tradition of the American South – blues, country, folk, soul – without giving much thought to carefully entwining genres. Instead he just filters the music he’s absorbed in his nearly six decades on the planet through his straightforward rock & roll prism, resulting in highly crafted songs performed with stripped-down presentation and raw emotion.
Jim Mize, his third and best LP so far, distills what makes Mize great into one powerhouse statement. Accompanied by fellow Southern songwriters John Paul Keith, Jimbo Mathus, Taylor Hollingsworth and Kate Taylor, Mize puts his characters through the wringer, whether they’re falling in love (“This Moment With You,” “Rabbit Hole”) or falling apart (“Bleed,” “Drunk Moon Falling”). Facing tough choices and tougher emotional undertows, his protagonists react in different ways: sometimes with shaky supplication (“Need Me Some Jesus”), sometimes with desolate resignation (“Empty Rooms”), sometimes with uneasy defiance (“I Won’t Come Back Again”). But no matter how these folks deal with their circumstances, they feel real, like friends you’ve counseled or neighbors you’ve wondered about, people who might have stepped right out of the pages of a Larry Brown short story collection.
With characters so keenly drawn and music so refreshingly forthright, Jim Mize captures a timeless place of bravado, melody and regret.
DOWNLOAD: “I Won’t Come Back Again,” “This Moment With You,” “Need Me Some Jesus”