Folk Troubadour MIKE FELTEN To Issue Sixth Album DIAMONDS AND TELEVISIONS on March 17
"Outsider Americana" Draws Comparisons to John Prine, Steve Goodman, Woody Guthrie and Early Bob Dylan. 50-Year Old Song "Statue of Liberty" Makes Its Recorded Debut. On Track to Play 100 Shows This Year
By: 1888 Media
The Illinois Entertainer proclaims him, "the real deal."
He exclaims that the weathered Martin guitar in his hand is his shovel and that the old Harmony Sovereign waiting for the slide is his plow. He is a workingman; a Johnny Lunchbucket. According to Midwest Record Magazine, what he does is, "Unreconstructed freak folk." A bit of blues, a hint of rock and a pile of billowy soul. All the influences forged in the tempest like a late night omelet at some ancient diner.
The stories overflow like a third cup of joe. Some names you recognize. Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. Nelson Algren and Gene Autry. Maybe even a Paddy Bauler or a Hillary Rodham. Open mics when a John Prine got up and did three. Pete Seeger and Utah Phillips listened.
He sings to remember and sometimes to forget.
There are six albums. Coming March 17 is his latest rumination, Diamonds and Televisions. Bare bones on the telephone. It never seems enough. It is never complete even though the arc is winding down. Now is the time.
Folkways legend Bob Everhart tells us that "Woody Guthrie would've been proud".
Mike doesn't know about that stuff. It is just the shovel. It is just the plow.
Felten has been playing since the 1960's. A veteran of rock, country and blues bands, Mike sat in Muddy Waters bedroom, had Buddy Guy show him around the blues clubs where Willie Dixon, Junior Wells and Mighty Joe Young, among others, were hanging out, and played folk gigs at places like the Fifth Peg and Orphans in Chicago, alongside guys like Steve Goodman & John Prine.
For three decades, Felten operated Record Emporium, one of the best record stores in Chicago, and semi-famous for hosting scenes in the movie Love Jones (Nia Long), the TV show Cupid, starring Jeremy Piven, and was the inspiration for the fictitious record store, "Championship Vinyl," in the movie High Fidelity, which starred Jack Black and John Cusack.
While manning the emporium, Mike made his own music too. As a mid-'60s teenager, he regularly rode a CTA bus from his folks' North Side home down to the Old Town School of Folk Music, taking guitar lessons from Ginny Clemens and Jo Mapes. He later ran in the same circles and played open mics with fellow newcomers John Prine, Steve Goodman, and Bonnie Koloc.
It's taken Mike a little longer than those legends to make his mark, but his skills as a troubadour are renowned. He plays an average of 100 shows a year, and his series of albums for his own Landfill label includes 2013's acclaimed AKA Johnny Lunchbucket. Diamonds and Televisions pushes the stylistic envelope for the veteran singer-songwriter, who wrote every song on the set ("Seven Days A Week" is a collaboration with Bob Frank). This is the first time he's utilized a full band in the studio, adding multiple new dimensions to his approach—which he admits can be a tad difficult to succinctly define.
"Victor Sanders, my guitarist and recording engineer on this album, calls it 'Outsider Americana,'" says Mike. "I have so many influences. I've played in country bands. I've played in cover bands. I've played in blues bands and rock bands. Where does it fit? I don't know. In my sets, I play Muddy Waters and Buck Owens and Smokey Robinson, and it doesn't sound like any of those people."
Echoes of Bo Diddley's primal shave-and-a-
"Emma's House" springs from a serious place. "Basically, the song's about Emma Goldman, the anarchist. I never knew that she lived on Sheffield Avenue, over by DePaul University,"
"Unreconstructed freak folk." Midwest Record Magazine
"James McCandless with undertones of John Prine." Chicago Folk Music Examiner
"Outsider Americana written in the style of Dylan, it's distinctly original." Music-Savers
"Jaundiced views of life very reminiscent of an early Bob Dylan." Country Music Round-Up
"If you appreciate thought-provoking, heartfelt music with a message (think Dylan, Guthrie, Buckley), then this is your guy." Yahoo