My, how things have changed since I first saw Mike Tramp performing with White Lion all those years ago on the rock and metal programmes on TV! Then along came the grungy Freak of Nature and Mike Tramp solo career. Now this album pretty much has Mike stripping everything down to basics and going the more folk and acoustic route which to me is a fantastic move. It showcases Mike Tramp’s beautiful song writing and structuring capabilities, and has Mike bearing his soul for us all to hear. It is in places sad, moving, thoughtful, deep, hopeful, uplifting and provoking. To me it still has Mike firmly deep within his rock roots, but then mixes it up with what I can best describe as kind of Celtic folk sounds. The stories and tales of long ago, modernised and told in a very personal way. The influences are certainly there to hear in Neil Young and Bob Dylan.
The album opens up with “Cobblestone Street”. This is a gentle opening track with the main sounds coming from Mike’s guitar and vocals. There is some simple keyboard and subtle effects but the guitar and vocals are more prominent. This song immediately has you hooked. Mike is singing about the streets where he was born and grew up in Copenhagen, reminiscing about the past. The people have changed, ships that used to be there have disappeared, but his memories are still the same. It had me thinking about my past and growing up. Where your roots are. It gives you a sense of home and warm feelings and is such a lovely, lovely song.
“Caught In The Storm” is very much a tale about an old sea man or travelling man who keeps searching for what he is looking for. He met a woman and had 2 children, but “suddenly it all fell apart at the seams”. Metaphorically speaking, this sounds like a bitter tale about being away from your family for long periods at a time. Wondering what changes may have taken place while being away, and trying to make it up to them on your return but it all falls apart. It is very thought provoking.
Following this dark theme is a song filled with hope, brightness and fun in the track “New Day”. Starting fresh and making a change for the better seems to be the theme here. “It’s a new day, get yourself together. It’s a new day, never mind the weather. It’s a new day and everything is up to you”. It has an infectious rhythm as it goes along, simple but catchy tune that will have your toes tapping and makes you feel warm inside.
There are not many upbeat tracks on the album so it changes the mood for a brief period of time before it goes back to the downbeat, moodiness, and harshness that life throws at us for “Ain’t the Life I Asked For”. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album. There is guitar and harmonica and very subtle background effects here. Mike seems to be writing about starting out in rock and roll, the lifestyle, and life in general, but it is not the life he was expecting. Singing during the chorus “This ain’t the life that I asked for, I know. But it is all that I got. This ain’t the life that I wanted to live. Now it is what I’ve become”.
To me the song “Angel or Devil” is about love, relationships, and how someone makes you feel. The good and the bad. It is the most acoustic rock sounding song on the album. It is slightly faster in rhythm and pace than most of the others and more upbeat, with a simple but effective constant monotone drum beat that plays in the background throughout the song. A tranquil sounding flute or pipe can also be heard in places. Another cracking track and another favourite of mine is “What Are You Gonna Do?”. It starts off with a kind of psychedelic slow keyboard and dreamy like tones. Reminded me a bit like John Lennon in style. The words at the start indicating everything is going against you. Mike sings about having nearly nothing. “No food in the cupboard or money in the bank. The car has two flat tyres and not a drop of gas”. The house is falling apart and basically he is down in the dumps. This downward spiral changes however as the song develops and especially the chorus. The song does have a positive message and theme which does ask when the shit hits the fan and you are being dragged down for whatever reason, what is it that you’re going to do about it to get yourself out of your situation? Are you going to run away from it all or confront whatever it is that’s bothering you? It’s just such a lovely song that most people can relate to. I’m sure everyone has been in that predicament at some time in their lives, and it does bring about hope and positivity in making that change for the better.
What I do love about the album “Cobblestone Street” is that there are a lot of deep personal thoughts and feelings all the way through this album. It is very reflective and it comes across in a mesmerising way. It has you transfixed into the words, trying to work out what it is Mike is trying to say. A lot of people will also be able to relate to some of the lyrics in certain ways, even if our own life experiences are different. It very much has that human touch and rare quality of song writing with feeling and emotion not only in the words, but in the music, and that’s something you don’t come across as often these days. OK, there are a lot of downbeat melancholy tracks, but these tracks are still beautifully constructed, written, and flows smoothly along as you listen to it. I imagine it would be ideal for mellowing down to in days of doing nothing. It certainly isn’t a party album but superb stuff! As this is being published, tonight i am very much looking forward to seeing Mike Tramp perform this album live in Glasgow. This is something that I am sure will come across as very intimate when performed in a small venue such as The Classic Grand. More on that to follow……
1. Cobblestone Street
2. Caught In the Storm
3. New Day
4. Ain’t the Life I Asked For
6. We’ll Be All Right
7. Angel Or Devil
8. Find It In Your Heart
9. What Are You Gonna Do?