Mike Russell: Life's Café

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Title: Life's Café

Basics: Basics, you say? Where to start -- Russell is on his fifth CD. He has also appeared in theatrical productions as Howard Bevins in William Inge's Picnic and as Simon Stimson in Thorton Wilder's Our Town and he is the owner of Desert Winds Development, Inc., a Scottsdale and Paradise Valley luxury custom home building company.

Yes, for those keeping track, that is the first time I have linked to a luxury custom home building company in a YAFI post. Russell also plays "a variety of styles including acoustic rock, pop, some hard rock and even a little country." Phew -- just a "little" country. He must not be a fan of the late Stuart Adamson.

Best Song: Corny Big Country jokes aside, Russell isn't that bad a musician. He has a lot going against him -- some his fault (acting, real estate), some beyond his control (total dweeb Dan Miles). There's nothing wrong with a man in his late 40s/early 50s writing and recording music at this level, so long as the subject matter isn't overly personal and super sappy. Russell walks a fine line throughout his latest album, and opener "River's Edge" stands as his most solid effort. It plays into the mellow tone of the album while showcasing an incredibly polished chorus, complete with Russell's guitar skills. His singing on certain parts isn't the strongest, but the song's melodies bail Russell out.

Worst Song: Upon listening to the opening lyrics of "Out of the Dark," my Cornball Meter started blaring. Thanks, again, to the company Russell keeps with Pride of the Garage's Dan Miles. I thought, "Oh god, a super personal song, perhaps about one of his children." The song is, in fact, about Russell's gay son and is one of the more heartfelt, unique songs I have heard in my time doing YAFI. Russell dedicated the song to his son for his 18th birthday. That's solid parenting.

That all being said, the story/song about when 200 people watched Russell piss all over the Elk's Lodge floor as a child -- "Write My Book" -- is far too corny for my tastes. It's still an okay song, but it certainly takes the cake as the biggest dud on this album.

Suggestions: Russell suggests on "Write My Book" that Heath Ledger play him if a screenplay of all his life's crazy adventures ever makes it to the big screen.

Life's Café was released on September 11, 2010.

I don't know when Russell wrote the song "Write My Book," but Ledger passed away in January of 2008. You might want to check your sources before you write a song declaring that a dead actor play you in your big-screen adaptation of the time you were jerked out of the women's bathroom at "maximum stream" at the Elk's Lodge.

Also, who yanks a poor, confused little kid out of the women's bathroom in the middle of a raging piss? What kind of world are we living in? So he made a mistake -- at least let the kid finish. That piss all over the floor is on you, mean old lady.

Grade: C-

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