Blues On Stage
Minneapolis, MINN, USA
October 2000
Blues Money review

Having inexplicably overlooked Blues Money when it first came out, I 'discovered' Michael Pickett with his second and most recent release, Conversation With The Blues . That one was a masterpiece -- unquestionably one of the best  blues/roots recordings of the year. How could I have missed this one. Michael's a thirty-year veteran of Toronto's blues scene, so I guess it shouldn't come as surprise that his debut(!) is so assured. It's a mature, confident work of the very highest caliber. And it is indeed a 'work' -- no hobby, no mere pastime, this! At the risk of pretense, I'd call Blues Money a work of art, a life statement, if you will, of a man who's been around long enough to dismiss frills and frippery, who's learned from hard experience what matters, and who has the skill and experience to translate that into music that's honest and true. Yes, it's that good. Michael's a very fine guitarist, but he's known primarily as a harp player. And play he does, but with a restraint that could serve as a lesson in good taste. Sure, he's got the killer tone that most harp players (myself included) would give their right (insert body part) for, and when he feels like it, he can absolutely dazzle with his dexterity. But for all his skill, there's never an extraneous note to be found -- his solos serve the songs, not the other way around.

And ah, the songs! Michael wrote or co-wrote every tune on the disc, and while it would be easy just to call 'em all blues songs (they are!), one could just as well put them into a looser "roots" category. Better yet, if categorization is required -- there's Chicago blues, there's jump blues and Texas blues, etc . . . and now there's Pickett blues.

Anyone who's lasted as long as Michael has made a few friends over the years, and the guest list on this disc reads like a veritable who's who of Toronto's blues elite. But again, it's not about star turns or the prestige of having so-and-so make an appearance. One gets the sense that every contribution was carefully considered, and the guests were brought in precisely because of what they could bring to the song in question. The sound, too, is excellent. Like everything else about the disc, care and craft are evident at every turn. It may be an indie release, but there's nothing low-budget about the production values -- to my ears, it's the aural equivalent of any 'big label' release. My guess is that Michael would settle for nothing less than perfection. And that's just what he got, all the way 'round. This is one for the ages!

John Taylor

This review is copyright © 2000 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.


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