Mike Stinson and Johnny Irion’s New Album “Working My Way Down”
Growling like a wild animal just awakening from a long hibernation and now itching to take a bite out of life once more, the sizzling melodicism that we hear in the opening bars of “The Bottle and Me” immediately clues us in as to the chill-inducing vibes about to come pouring out of the speakers here, in Mike Stinson and Johnny Irion’s new album Working My Way Down, but it isn’t until we’re deep in the clutches of “Ponderosa Pine” that the multilayered nature of the music this pair is producing takes its full shape. On the back of the swinging groove in this song, we move forward into the rustic-style crunch of the spellbinding “Only Friend I Ever Had,” and before we know it, Stinson and Irion are controlling every move our hips make.
The title cut in Working My Way Down changes gears from the urban swagger of “Only Friend I Ever Had” over to an old-timey folk rhythm and harmonizing elements between Stinson and Irion that warm listeners up like a crackling fire in the dead of winter, and following its quiet melodic march, even more acoustic-bound grooves come flowing from our stereo in the form of “Cosmic Candy,” one of my favorite songs on the LP. This number isn’t quite as textured a tune as the angle-focused “Taking No For an Answer” is, but while they make for odd neighbors in this tracklist on the surface, they have a lot more in common compositionally than it would seem upon closer inspection.
“Brand New Love Song” keeps the folky energy of the last three songs going at full steam before turning us over to another haunting crossover track in “LA Cowboy,” which along with “Only Friend I Ever Had” sports a bottom-end binding together its rhythm and rhymes so tightly that any music enthusiast will be weak at the knees even in a cursory examination of its sway. There’s a similarly dark undertow to “You Came a Long Way from St. Louis,” though in this song, the bottom steps out of the master mix to make room for a blushing lead vocal that could melt ice at the right volume. This track isn’t as swanky a tune as “Last Chance to Hide from Love” is, but overall, I wouldn’t have changed its placement in the arrangement of songs for anything – the flow of material here is just too good to make any alterations.
Working My Way Down concludes with the stone-cold “Stranger Here Myself,” a composition seemingly provoked by tragedy but conceived to inspire a bit of hope amidst the trying times we happen to call the present, and in the moments that follow its final note, it’s hard to shake the narrative of this closing song from our minds. Both lyrically and instrumentally, Stinson and Irion turn in an Americana offering for the ages in Working My Way Down, and while it’s not the only alternative LP you should be listening to this April, it’s an emotional effort that fans of this genre should be regarding as a top-notch release at any rate.
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