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Michael On Fire: Reviews and Response

Written by Mark Gallo
June 12, 2017 - 12:00am EDT
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Michael On Fire (Michael Colone) makes it clear that this is not a double CD but two separate discs in one package. Call it what you will, the music herein is wholly captivating and intelligent song writing from a master craftsman. Twenty albums into a career that has taken him from Detroit to Los Angeles to Nashville, he has been produced in the past by Stephen Stills, has recorded at Muscle Shoals Studios, and he has performed and recorded as a solo artist and as a band leader. Of the two albums gathered here, The Solstice Session is a look at Michael on Fire right now and Tracks Along the Way is an overview of the past 25 years. Both are riveting looks at a modern troubadour. He sometimes seems to be John Lennon-inspired, but is clearly his own man. No One To Kill, from The Solstice Session, is a particularly powerful song on which he sings “We rang all the bells all over the Earth/We did what we could whatever that’s worth/We burned all the uniforms fire for heat/Ain’t no other sides. Ain’t no one to beat.” Call Off The Dogs (“Better think fast. Better beware/Keep Your Eyes Open. Better take care/Strong concentration. Deep Meditation/True Concentration. You get a bad reputation”) and Evening In the Everglades (“Spanish Pirates. Spanish Moss/Hope we find the treasure/Found some comfort from the storm, also found some pleasure”) are standouts from this first set. On the Tracks Along the Way disc are a couple of songs that have gained the status of classics from his legion of fans: I’ll Make You a Drum (“Will you make me a drum. Will you make me a drum/So I can make thunder and bring back the sun”) and Chief Redbird’s Violin (“I learned to play the fiddle on Chief Redbird’s violin/Only wish I could play like him/Never even met the man but I could feel his soul/Every time I held his violin). Healing Waters (“The healing waters of the Great Spirit/heal the pain”) and the anthemic Whatever Happened to America (“Whatever happened to the big front porch” and to the corner store, and drive in and the PTA and radio and farmers, etc.)are also standouts in a collection rife with brilliant songs. Much of the lyrical content of his material is related to the earth, often from the perspective of the Native Americans. All of it is stimulating.

On both collections MOF surrounds himself with superb musicians and he plays acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, harmonica, banjo, bass and drums. Along for the ride are saxophonist David Reinstein, a friend and musical compatriot dating back 40 years, Bill Flores (lap and steel guitar, accordion, mandolin and dobro), Bear Erickson (electric and baritone guitar ad fretless bass), Tompeet Fredericksen (drums), the highly revered Jim Pugh (keys), Jack Joshua (bass), Tyson Leonard (violin), Tobias (drums and percussion), Ced Curtis (electric guitar), Stevie Ray Davis (electric guitar)James Ascenzo (bass, drums, percussion), Todd Glass (drums) and Jack Dryden (bass). The degree of musicianship is equal to the writing of MOF. Two vital albums in one package. Highly recommended


Roots Music Report
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Out of the darkness and void of a decimated music industry comes a singer / songwriter that lights the fires of peace, love and empathy for a World that is desperate for positive energy. Michael on Fire rekindles the passion and light in an art-form that holds the heart, soul, and voice of the people. ” - Stewart Brennan, World United Music (Montreal, Canada)


    It was another enchanted night at the Painted Sky in Harmony.  One of the greats was back in the room.
     Michael On Fire is the progenitor of a love fest, or maybe a happy reunion looking for a place to happen. He is a story teller, charmer and entertainer who lights a room, fills it with image and music and delivers lyrics that get inside your heart and head. He's like a troubadour Horton Foote. A writer who conveys power and history in his message.
      As in the words of one of his songs he "makes thunder and brings back the sun." Michael is one of the most intelligent lyricists working, but he also delivers a poetic history.  His Apache Warrior is a case in point.  
      To write as intuitively and sensitively as he writes, you need to bleed your soul. You don't sing of "meeting angels I've abused" without uncorking a deep musical spirit. His tunes ring in a rhythm and cadence that moves your feet and stirs your heart. You rock in the joy and marvel at the story.
      Playing with a band he marshals a power that surrounds you. As an acoustic artist accompanied by only a drum he is like a sculptor who shapes meaning with an elegance of economy. A guitar, a voice and a drum beat evoke visions.
      Michael is an artist whose music delights and haunts.
Over the decades I've seen big acts, major stars, impressive tours, but there is something about Michael on Fire that connects like no other. He is singularly peerless. You simply need to see or hear him. I will make a point of catching him whenever he is in the region.  Watch for his tour coming your way.
      A post on an earlier visit and a sample of his music can be found at this link. You can enter Michael's site by linking here.



The prolific Michael On Fire has a new EP of rousing anthems called"Cadillac Ranch." He should know about the vehicular vernacular - he's from Detroit. MoF is also a master of the sing-along, stomp along slice of social commentary - think Michael Moore with an acoustic guitar. Sadly underappreciated after decades of great music, relentless touring and countless albums - this is a four song EP from a man who is never gonna have a day job. Good - because he excels at his night job. MoF is as good as Paul Thorn, Todd Snider and any of those other singer/songwriters with more money, but less hair. Old school locals will remember MoF from the Charlie's days and all those drunken Monday nights with Drew the Bartender. The title tune will make you a fan if you're not already - and when's the last time you heard a lyrical reference to a melaleuca tree? I hate them - no flowers - but MoF? Hey, he's on fire...and coming to SOhO in 11 July.

"... one of the most powerful and personal performances I’ve seen. He mesmerized the audience in the historic setting. Michael is a powerful lyricist painting images that connect with something deep in the psyche in a way that makes you feel you have known the songs and ranged over the emotion of them your whole life. His tunes are as though they were preordained in memory. Almost his entire play list clicked open a receptor that made it immediately recognizable, though I’d never heard his music before.”- Tom Cochrun, Light Breezes Cambria, CA.) June 2011


Rating: 9/10

Label: REP/
TSM/SLW 2011

Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Michael on Fire brings to light his distinctive brand of americana-rock music with 13 songs that span a broad range of rootsy styles, including blues, swamp, delta, cajun, new orleans, country, and what not really.

He's a proper blue collar musician, a hard working singer/songwriter as well as a very gifted poet according to these songs. Are we impressed? very much so!!! Acoustic and electric sounds work together in perfect harmony and you'll get the whole she-bang with everything from piano, harmonica, dobro, sax and organ to violin and banjo to electric guitars and laidback arrangements. Mark my words, this is top notch material and definitely must have if you're into the laidback style of Willy Deville, Springsteen, Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits, Van Morrison, (seventies) Dylan, and the old sound of classic americana rock.

Michael and the band have created an Americana anthology that reads like a collection of classics bands and songs. Sheer class from the opening "Righteous Man" to the closing track of "Watch The Show". Highly recommended.

Urban "Wally" Wallstrom - Rock United (UK) (Jul 22, 2011)

"Michael on Fire Always Yes (Real Eyes Productions, 2011) [********* 9 out of 10 stars] - "An excellent roots album of country, contemporary and rockin' bluesy material from Michael on Fire. A great songwriter and husky whiskey soaked voice that adds to his style an awful lot. Every number is a heartfelt, hot gem of either past, present or future tense, including "Chief Redbird's Violin"; "Marlboro Country"; the blues of "Look Me in the Eyes"; "Apache Wind", featuring killer harp playing; the gutsy guitarwork of "Breathing of the Sun"; or the atmospheric closer "Watch The Show" that has a real Native American vibe flowing through it. Articulate Americana!"Glenn Milligan, Metalville (UK)



Glen Milligan - Metalville (UK) (Aug 15, 2011)
      Michael On Fire played the Painted Sky this Memorial weekend in what was one of the most powerful and personal performances I've seen.
      Michael and his band, mesmerized the audience in the historic recording studio.  He is a powerful lyricist painting images that connect with something deep in the psyche in a way that makes you feel you have known the songs and ranged over the emotion of them for your whole life.  His tunes are as though they were pre ordained in your memory.  Almost his entire play list clicked open a receptor that made it immediately recognizable, though I'd never heard his music before.  Weird huh!  And the stories they convey also reach deep in a haunting way. He covers a landscape of history, spirit, aspiration and grit. 
     He is a sincere and engaging troubadour.  His band were all masters of their instrument. In the room that evening was a give and take between artists and audience that was palpable. 
     I urge you check him out.  His music will not leave you soon. Here are a couple of samples.
- Tom Cochrun (journalist, novelist, documentary writer/director)
Tom Cochrun - blog (May 30, 2011)

Michael On Fire • ALWAYS YES • Real Eyes Productions REP034 •

A new name to me, so I was kinda surprised to discover that this is Michael on Fire’s 13th album. The California singer-songwriter has a sound and style that epitomises all that is so good about the Americana genre. You’ll find blends of country, folk, blues and rock’n’roll running through the grooves, occasionally all in one song. Like all the very best singer-songwriters, this guy is at his best when relating a complete story in song. Chief Redbird’s Violin is a prime example as in a little over five minutes he relates the tale in a convincing manner that has the listener hanging on to every word, right through until the last notes fade away. There’s more of a blues vibe running through Violet Skies, with gravelly lead vocals and biting electric lead guitar. After a rough-hewn opening vocal, Silence develops into a smoothly executed ballad, with lush harmonies, ethereal saxophone and jazzy guitar. This is honest, rootsy music by a veteran artist who makes music on his own terms regardless of current fads and fancies—we celebrate artists like that, especially when the music is of such a uniformly high quality.

Michael on Fire - Always Yes - Real  Eyes Productions

Searching the Barnes & Noble web-site for “affirmations” turns up 3,569 different books. I wonder if any one of them is as powerfully positive as Michael on Fire’s roots masterwork, Always Yes. (Real Eyes Production, January 11, 2011)

Thirteen powerful affirmations, a longish listen, but worth every one of its lushly musical 65 minutes. With that “who is that masked singer” legendary voice and richly textured arrangements, Michael on Fire and long-time musical compadres Ced Curtis on burning electric guitar, David Reinstein on sax, and co-producer Jamie Ascenzo on drums and dobro, have created a resonant Americana anthology that reads like a collection of classics, despite being only days off the press. 

From the Americana-rock anthem “Righteous Man,” through the rocking swamp rhythms of “Look me in the Eye” and the gritty blues of “Breathing of the Sun,” to the knowing reflection in the final ballad, “Watch the Show,” this album is the definitive sound of grace, gratitude, mature realism and the profound recognition of all that may be right in our world. 

Always Yes is a testament to the human spirit, and a testament to Michael on Fire’s musical virtuosity, - country, blues, ballads, Americana, folk - “Chief Redbird’s Violin” took me through a time warp to the autumn of 1933. Tyson Leonard’s sweet and haunting violin opens a portal to a place where the listener can indeed “see those long lace gowns, those smoke-filled rooms, and hear those old tunes.” And Michael on Fire fans will be especially gratified to hear him retell the story of Geronimo’s magic in “Apache Wind.”

But Always Yes is far from a museum piece. The cover art conveys perfectly the vibrant, provocative energy of aggressively vital songs like “Violet Skies.” And you’d have to be dead and, not just buried, but cremated, not to feel proud to be a citizen (of any country) and an adult when Michael on Fire exultantly rocks out “I’m a father. I’m a man. I’m a citizen, trying to make a stand.” in “Look Me in the Eye.”

“Now is the time,” he sings (in “Good Man”), “for all good men. And now is the time for all good women too.” It is that time, and this is the album for all good men and all good women who love good music, music that is both timeless and dynamically current.

Always Yes is a prayer of gratitude, a belting of the gospel of maturity, a rocking of the soul coming into the power of experience. You can keep the nostalgic songs of young love. I’ve kept growing, kept changing, always rearranging, to paraphrase my new favorite country song, (“Marlboro Country”). And I want my music to keep up with me.

I want it to affirm the grace of growing up. I want it to affirm that I enjoy moving my body to music that doesn’t suggest that because I’m past my twenties, I’m past my power. This is sexy, soulful, searching, sumptuous and a whole lot of other really great “s” words, not to mention a whole lot of a-z words.

But ultimately, the title pegs it as an “a” word. - Always Yes is an affirmation of Michael on Fire’s brilliant melody, poetry, insight, musical creativity, and conviction. It is an affirmation worthy of grown-up musically aware folks who still have it and know that it does indeed get better with age.