ARTICLES:

THE ALTERNATE ROOT, WINTER 2012

The title of the latest release by Mike Cullison says it all...‘ Roadhouse Rambler’. One foot is tapping to the classic country rambling, the other beats to roadhouse, electric blues. Mike Cullison kicks off with the kind of light to shine in the country blues in “Neon Blue Heartache”. Producer Mark Robinson never misses an opportunity to lay blue guitar licks across honky tonk piano and harmonica blasts. The riffing fits comfortably into the smooth bottom heavy rhythms. Mike’s vocals have country breaks, highs and hesitating notes that are best when filtered through the heart.

When drinking is the questions the answers are marinated in a “Whiskey Memory”. In the track, the power of pure country is tough to resist but a patch of blue comes peeking through in the guitar notes amid the storm of twang that reigns over the song. The Classic Country that Mike Cullison trades has the feel of real, there is no polish needed. The sheen comes from the love of a bending note and the high reaches of the pedal steel. Expect the hair on some necks to stand at attention in “Drinkin’ Songs” when Mike name checks the hands that served their love of drink in music. He orders something by Hank and Merle and he wants only top shelf drama for two-timing girls. The ache comes close to breaking its owners heat but, damn, those “Drinkin’ Songs’ make it all right. The comfort comes from the simplicity of diving in, the tears mix with the amber of the glass, the ease comes from that feeling of being shot at and hit.

Classic country was a powerhouse in the days when it was right off the line as its heartaches and heart throbs had their lives played out on AM radio and diner jukeboxes circa 1950 and 1960. Country is never far from the songs on ‘ Roadhouse Rambler’ but the blues is not out of reach. The E.P. has equal opportunity bragging rights stamped on its six-pack of tracks. As proud as the country flags waves when it comes to talking about the women in songs, Cullison chooses the blue path. “Red Headed Woman” soaks the stories in delta mud. The sluggishness of the swamp mist that moves the blue slowly through the song does nothing to remove the power from each step as the narrator falls in for obvious reasons, no matter what the signs are saying. The musical textures that put gauze over the rhythm remain flexible for the country of Mike’s voice to clear a path. The mix is a marriage in made late night last calls.

Mike Cullison, the man, is head honcho, big cheese and CEO of Mike Cullison the musician. He is an independent musician who is seeing a lot of success from using the tools that are available to him and all other independents. ‘ Roadhouse Rambler’ was created as a calling card to book overseas gigs. He is dedicated to his career as a small business.

Mike Cullison: “I am lucky that I have the time to devote to my career, it is all I is do now and have been doing for the last six months. I would be the first one to say that taking time off has helped my career, I have been pushing the buttons pretty hard. I worked full time for the telephone company for thirty years and music was always at night and on the weekends. I could always write songs and I started writing for a small publishing group. My friend Don Newman was the only person I knew in Nashville and he talked me into coming up here. I get up about 5:30 in the morning, start the coffee and go to the computer. Europe is six hours ahead and I see if there is anything pertinent that I need to deal with before having breakfast with my wife. I go back to e-mails. Mondays is office day and I scatter writing and meetings throughout the week. I try to interact as much as I can, keep my eye on who is playing out, and I go out to network. It is the path that I have chosen because I know if I want to get somewhere, I am the one who has to do it. Nobody is gonna come knock on my door and say “Hey Mike, I am here to take you to the promised land’. I am not the best guitar player and I am not the best singer but I write damn good songs and I am the best Mike Cullison out there. The work has paid off and I have a three week tour of Europe planned, using the EP I made to get my music over there. I found contacts through ReverbNation and made the calls. I have been getting a lot of radio support and I have three different radio stations to hit the first day I am there, before I even perform. I will be hooking up with Phil Lee down towards London further in the tour. It is a lot of work and you gotta have a lot of time to do it.I have been on the other side of the coin where you can’t pursue what you want to pursue.”

With an EP out there working for him, Mike Cullison is working on his follow- up. As we have learned, Mike Cullison is the best Mike Cullison out there, so who better to give us a look/see at the future.

Mike Cullison: theBarstool Monologues is a project that I have been working on for four years. It started out as just the song itself, which I wrote with Johnny Neel. I began to realize that this song might be leading to something else. I concentrated on songs and ideas that would tie the people in the bar together being in the same place at the same time. Imagine if you take a picture of a bar and everyone in the picture is involved in some fashion in one of the songs. There will be a dialogue preceding each song that will tell a little story that will add to the song itself. The bar is the “Oasis” and Hollis is the owner/ bartender doing the narrative. He tells of the travelers who happen to have stopped at this oasis on their pilgrimage through life.

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