MIKE McCOLLUM -
Just a Workin' Fool - Review by Joe Ross, Staff Writer for Bluegrass Now
Mike McCollum's "Just a Workin' Fool" has an upbeat character that's full of fun. The Aspen, Colorado songsmith and finger-style guitarist leaves us with some noteworthy lyrics and melodies. His affable baritone and relaxed phrasing give his songs a friendly charm, but it's hard to put your finger right on his genre of choice.
While he primarily uses bluegrass instrumentation, Jeff Taylor's accordion and certain vocal arrangements are more markedly pop, country, or folk on songs like "One Last Sad Embrace," "I'll Be Remembering You," and "She's Tender That Way." Mike describes these three songs as "Bluegrass meets the Fleetwoods, the amazing vocal trio from the 50s and 60s musical era. "Loving You Does Crazy Things to Me" is Mike's self-declared, humble bluegrass swing tribute to the fabulous Jordanaires. A strong 4/4 beat brings Mike's "Pretty Little Weather Girl" closest to bluegrass, this song being based on one of his best friends getting a job as a local T.V. weather reporter.
Thus, McCollum, along with his producer, Jeff White, has created a product that is distinctively himself and his own sound. He avoids any cookie-cutter formulaic approach to his bluegrass. Michael Cleveland's fiddling is exceptional, and the singers (Andrea Zonn, Dawn Sears, Terry Eldredge, and Jeff White) breathe life into the ten songs. Very smart and accomplished backup from guitarist Jeff White, mandolinist Troy Engle, and bassist Mike Bub round out the instrumental support. Based on his songs, I surmise that Mike McCollum has a very effervescent personality. The main reason that he now wants to share his songs is to simply help people feel good. I'll bet that Mike and his friends had lots of fun making this CD.
Originally from southern California, Mike grew up with an inherent and deep love of music. His mom was a church singer, and Mike very proudly proclaims that still at the age of 82 she is an accomplished pianist and director of a chorus called the "Swingin' Singin' Seniors." His uncle is folksinger Sam Hinton, who introduced a 15-year-old Mike to bluegrass at the Topanga Canyon Fiddle Contest. Despite his earlier involvement with rock and R&B bands, Mike now seems to prefer the pure rustic clarity offered by acoustic country. For quite some time, music took a lower priority in his life while he worked in various day jobs from painter to paralegal. In the early 1990s, he decided to re-energize himself into songwriting with hopes of getting others to record his compositions. Eventually he decided to just do them himself. His first CD, "Simple and Clear," enlisted the assistance of Cheryl White, Jeff White, Charles Whitstein, Catherine Styron, Bobby Clark, Terry Eldredge, and Hoot Hester.
Now, the sequel, "Just a Workin' Fool," builds on the first volume with an equally-impressive effort that continues to emphasize a "pure, unaffected country singing style." While more secular than his earlier release, "Just a Workin' Fool" continues to draw positive images on the aural canvas. "Pretty Little Weather Girl" and "I'm Just a Workin' Fool" are getting good national airplay as a result of being featured on "Prime Cuts of Bluegrass, Volume 73." Mike also performed two of his songs from "Just a Workin' Fool" at IBMA's World of Bluegrass Songwriter's Showcase in the fall of 2004. Mike very recently sponsored the "Workin' Fools Win-Win Songwriting Contest with the hope of encouraging and supporting fellow songwriters.