Mike Mangione and The Kin is scheduled to release its new album But I’ve Seen the Stars on Oct. 20 via RODZINKA Records. The 10-song, 44-minute record is just the latest effort from band founder Mangione, and the first for Mangione and his new group, The Kin. Its musical arrangements will appeal to any fan of Delta Rae, Mumford & Sons, The Dunwells, Marc Broussard and other similar acts while its lyrical content boasts an equally wide appeal if not wider. That is exemplified right from the album’s outset in ‘Three Days,’ which will be discussed shortly. ‘Riding Down,’ which comes later in the album’s run is another example of the album’s wide-reaching musical and lyrical appeal. It will be discussed later. ‘The Question & The Cure’ is yet another example of how far-reaching this album proves to be, and is hardly the last of the record’s songs that can be cited to support that statement. From start to finish, this record is nothing but positive. Considering all of this, it proves to be not only one of the year’s top new independent records but potentially one of the year’s top new Americana/folk records and even top new albums overall.
Mike Mangione and The Kin’s new record But I’ve Seen The Stars is a shining new effort from the veteran singer/songwriter and his new group of musicians. That is thanks in no small part to the album’s musical and lyrical content. The combination of those two elements makes this record a work that will reach an innumerable audience. This statement is supported right from the album’s outset through the song ‘Three Days.’ The song’s gentle, flowing acoustic guitar line and harmonies instantly conjure thoughts of Delta Rae. The string arrangements and barely there percussion serve to strengthen that comparison even more. The balance in those elements easily evokes powerful emotions in any listener’s heart and mind. The song’s lyrics will move listeners just as much as the song’s musical arrangement as Mangione sings, “Three more days/I’m coming home/Leave the candle by the door/Three more days/Will you be there, too/Please be gentle, I’ll be true to you/Every day” right off the top. From there Mangione goes on to sing in seeming introspection, “Had no feeling and no main/I had a story to arrange/The birds sang in missionary prose/Good intentions can impose/So I headed on my own/To seek the origin alone/Headed on my own/I sought the elders/Heard them speak/And I saw forever and the meek/And with fear they focused on my eyes/Fear was hatred in disguise/But the heart is lined with gold/And in there the story’s being told.” Mangione’s introspection continues in the song’s second verse just as much as the song’s lead verse as he sings about accepting mortality, personal emotions and other items. Simply put, there is a lot of lyrical ground covered in a small space, and Mangione does a truly good job of making listeners think considering the seeming introspection presented in the song’s lyrics. When the emotions and thought generated through that introspection is coupled with the song’s equally moving musical arrangement, the end result is an opus that will touch any listener deeply, proving right from the beginning the record’s impact and reach. It is just one of the songs included in this album that serves to show that impact and reach. ‘Riding Down’ serves just as much as ‘Three Days’ to show why this album is such a success.
‘Riding Down’ is an important piece to discuss in examining this album because it is completely unlike ‘Three Days’ both musically and lyrically. Its pure 12-bar blues arrangement will move audiences not by tugging at their heartstrings but by putting a smile on their faces and getting their feet tapping. While the song is nearly four-minutes long, its arrangement makes it feel like that time passes by so much faster, which in this case is a good thing. The arrangement is so enjoyable that listeners won’t even realize how much time has passed by its end, easily leaving them wanting more. The song’s lyrical content is just as fun with its own classic blues approach. He sings in the song’s lead verse, “In the midnight hour/Of the seventh day/There was a light around my window/Heard I couldn’t stay/I’m gone/I’m gone/When the hellhounds call with the whistle blowin’ baby/I’ll be riding down.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Go and tell my mama/Tell my sister I’m gone/I’m gonna hitch the black snake/A hundred-thirty strong.” One is lead to think Mangione is singing here about that fabled long black train that has been noted in so many blues (and gospel) songs so many times before. Mangione’s approach to the subject in this case is an original approach, yet still as enjoyable as that in those other songs. When it is joined with the song’s infectious blues arrangement, the result is a song that quickly becomes one of this album’s best songs, if not its best. It is yet another example of what makes this record such a surprising hit, and not the last. ‘The Question & The Cure’ is yet another example of what makes this record stand out.
‘The Question & The Cure’ is yet another critical addition to But I’ve Seen The Stars because it stands on its own merits just as much as the previously discussed songs (and those not mentioned here). The combination of Mangione’s vocal delivery style and the song’s gentle, flowing arrangement makes the song yet another emotionally powerful work. The whole of those elements lends the song to comparisons to Bruce Springsteen and Mumford & Sons. The same can be said of the song’s lyrical content, which sees Mangione singing, “And the halo/Of the living/Lies the ancient and the dead/The broken/We don’t read too good/Cause we can’t spell too good/So I’ve read/God bless the innocent/They’re just waiting on a home/And the course is wide and heavy/And the winter’s bite is cold/No way/Will my family lie/We’re the downcast cry/In the soil/they’re hungry…and the tears just change to blood and oil/But god bless the broken-hearted/They’re just waiting on the day/When they’re free from falling victim/When they can give it all away. Yet again listeners have here an example of true lyrical depth that will tug at listeners’ heartstrings and leave them thinking and talking. Even more impressive is the fact that Mangione and company did not just rehash the lyrical content or arrangements used in the album’s other works to have that powerful impact here. Considering that, the song shows in whole why it is such an important part of this new record. When it is joined with the previously discussed songs and those not noted here, the end result is a record that proves to be a truly shining success.
Mike Mangione and The Kin’s new album But I’ve Seen The Stars is a record reaches the stars without even trying. Its musical arrangements and lyrical content together can leave listeners feeling such deep emotions at times while bringing great joy at others as well as emotions in between at yet others. That is evidenced through the songs noted here and those not noted. All things considered, this record shines just as bright as the stars seen, proving to be one of the year’s top new independent albums and potentially even one of the year’s top new albums overall. But I’ve Seen The Stars will be released Oct. 20 via RODZINKA Records. More information on the album is available online along with Mangione’s latest news and more at:
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