“Rhode Island’s Mike Laureanno is truly a multi-talented Renaissance man who wears the hats of singer, songwriter, producer, engineer and musician with equal proficiency. “
At its basic core, a well-written song should be able to transport the listener from out of the here and now, and into the songwriter’s state of conscience. Much like a movie or a good book, a song with an end goal that transcends mere entertainment value often allows us to live in far-off times while re-examining our own reality, if only for three minutes. And while taking in Pushing Back Wintertime, the new release from gifted folk artist Mike Laureanno, I was almost immediately plucked from the claptrap of our plugged-in / always-on world to a simpler America, where an honest survival reigned most important to everyday life.
Rhode Island’s Mike Laureanno is truly a multi-talented Renaissance man who wears the hats of singer, songwriter, producer, engineer and musician with equal proficiency. He combines a gentle, experienced voice reminiscent of Tom Chapin, with the potent penchant for storytelling like Harry Chapin. In all the positive praise he’s garnered over the years, one word seems to be repeated in describing his body of work: poignant. And the 12 tracks that make up Pushing Back Wintertime are ripe with poignant themes and heartfelt imagery that allow the listener to experience a slice of Americana through the eyes of the quintessential everyman. Not always the America of apple pie and spacious skies mind you, but often the one of abandoned factories and abandoned souls left in its wake. Those whose American dream somehow passed them by. Yet through it all, Laureanno’s everyman endures with pride intact.
One such character is illustrated in the track “Joe,” a victim of his times and circumstances, who now plays music for passersby at bus stations. “Joe is holding court at the bus depot, buskin and dancing, strumming on an old banjo. On the flip-side of luck, Brother can you spare a buck?” Though many writers would succumb to the temptation of injecting indignation, railing against society for allowing such injustice, Laureanno takes a softer stance by offering up a sliver of humanity: “... time in jail is warm, three hots and a cot — The sergeant knows his name, slips him some change.”
“Have Mercy On The Sinner” is a wry look at the flesh failings of purported pious men of the cloth, through the recounting of three Catholic school teachers. Rather than a grandiose indictment, Laureanno uses simple imagery to illustrate man’s mortal imperfections: “They took a vow, there were no women, but there was plenty of red wine — Was Father Wolf ever forgiven when he hung himself at Christmastime?”
One of my favorites in the collection is “Little Red-Winged Blackbirds,” an uptempo number that references the still unexplained phenomenon of 5,000 birds mysteriously dropping out of the skies above Beebe, Arkansas, on New Year’s Eve a few years ago. Mike Laureanno juxtaposes this event to the death toll of American military serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Little red-winged blackbirds falling from the sky — Five thousand blackbirds, but the true count’s classified — Roosting in the willows, preened lean and fit — Five thousand blackbirds, with their bright red epaulets.”
You can have your Taylors, Simon, Chapin, Stevens (a.k.a., Yusuf or whatever he’s calling himself these days), Mike Laureanno is every bit the songwriting, storytelling, folk balladeer that they are, with even more humanity in his words and empathy in his voice. He is destined to be one of Rhode Island’s greatest treasures, and I hope to be engaged by his work for many years to come.