A Review of the Mike Strasser CD
"alienation cafe"

"alienation cafe"
by Mike Strasser

Copyright 2004

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 12/04
"Kevin’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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This is a release that starts out like a litany of denizens of the damned--a nightmarish montage of junkies, juicers, existential-riven outcasts, square-pegged round-holed lonely hearts and the such. But then Mike Strasser leavens the mood of what is apparently his first release with both brighter subject matter and lighter takes.

Probably best described as part Tom Waits' better-singing brother/part romanticist, Strasser is an unknown outside of the Sacramento, CA, area but he has produced an interesting CD.

The title cut, "Alienation Cafe," depicts the epitome of a meeting place for both the truly off-kilter and those trenders wishing to be viewed as such. Strasser alternates between spoken word and singing on this cut, with the spoken word parts sounding similar to Chris Chandler’s verbal jousts.

"Kid Budda," is the nickname given to a bar room philosopher who spouts homilies such as variations of "yesterday, that's just ain't nothing but a canceled check, today, that’s money in the bank and tomorrow, that’s is a promissary note."

The female protagonist is actually a good soul but too scarred by tragic events of her youth to maintain any relationship in the bittersweet and memorable "Trail of Broken Hearts."

The corporate mind views everything simply as a usable resource in the accusatory "Corporate State Of America."

The tone then shifts with "Warm Wind" and "Love Is The Sweetest Thing," cuts paying homage to amor, that most favorite of folksinging subjects.

"The Sky Is Blue" reverses back to where the color of the song title matches the mood of the heart.

Considering the earlier cuts, "My America" is surprisingly an optimistic take on the state of the nation, one that could be of interest to future presidential candidates in their campaigns.

Strasser nicely concludes with a nature-descriptive--"last rays of sunshine, first shadows of dark...the trees grab the breeze and start to dancing"--ode to his loved one in the touching "Clear Across The Valley Tonight."

For a first-timer, Strasser nicely employs shifting melodies with the different songs so that each one stands apart memorably and individually. He provides interesting characters and entertaining stories, has something to say and crafts it well, making this a worthwhile CD. Maybe, just maybe, Sacramento is getting another star besides Arnold.

The liner notes are minimal (no lyrics) but what is supplied were hellacious on these 50+-year-old eyes. Please, not so artsy next time Mike.

Track List:

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