Michael Thomason has been making music all his life; influenced by the Bakersfield sound, as well as the music of Elvis Presley and the style of Bob Dylan, he blended what he liked into a solid country/folk-rock sound.
He recorded his first single in 1974, "California," with the Buckeroos at Buck Owens' studio. He struck out for Austin and spent several years playing the Texas circuit, honing his sound, and eventually made his way home to California. But despite an extremely successful tour of Europe with the band Too Far Gone, Michael spent a few years at home in California raising his family, still writing but not playing anywhere regularly. But eventually, the call of the music got strong again, and he put together The Michael Thomason Band, and, after more years, more music, and more shaking things together, they put together an album of songs, "Won't You Ever Learn," in 1998.
The years of hard work show in this superbly produced work. With its Bakersfield sound enhanced and strengthened by Michael's folk/rock influences and a trace of European flavor, "Won't You Ever Learn" is a collection of ten songs, most of which were written by Michael, whose Dylan influences shine in his clever lyrics, taking the old country standards of heartache, cheatin', and drinkin', and turning out new ways of saying them.
"Beneath still silken skin there beats/An achin' heart that longs to cheat/She looks to love to bring her peace/And soothe her soul between the sheets."
"Born With a Broken Heart" shows still more Michael's excellent songwriting ability, a tremendous economy of words set to a rich bluesy number with a strong drum beat and some marvelously plaintive guitar licks from lead guitarist Wolfgang Litter (the European touch comes not just from influence, but the band is largely German themselves; Don Schmitt plays bass and sings harmony vocals; Herman Lammers Meyer is on pedal steel, dobro, and fuzz-steel; Harry Habrect plays accordion, piano, and keyboards). His songwriting skill is further highlighted in tracks like "Ain't It Great To Be Free," "Something to Believe In," and "Heart in a Glass," co-written with Jens Dunker.
The band also knows how to write a song or two, such as "You Looked at Me," written by drummer and co-producer Jens Dunker, which is a wonderful honky-tonk tune; "You looked at me/through the bottom of a beer glass/And what you saw/Ain't what you see/And now you're back/Back in your real world/But my memories are killing me." Just enough heartache, set to a high-energy two-steppin' number. Ditto on bassist Don Schmitt's superior "Oh Papa," which speaks to anyone who felt their father should have paid just a little more attention to them: "I remember when I was a child/At my daddy's knee/And all the things I used to do/Just so he would look at me."
The only song on the album not penned by Michael or one of the band is the eerie, beautiful "Tower of Song," by the great Leonard Cohen (http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/). This one's a personal favorite, mellow yet extremely strong, excellently laid down for Michael's rich vocals.
The Michael Thomason Band is too good to be kept a secret exclusive to North California and Europe any longer. I can't remember who it is his voice reminds me of, but it has a soothing, nostalgic feel to it that makes me think I heard it long ago, when I was growing up, so maybe he just reminds me of old-time Haggard or Owens, or there's just something about his singing that makes me extremely happy; in any case, he deserves to be heard by a wider audience. He even closes the album with an old-fashioned yodeling Western cowboy song, "Nothing Comes To Mind," so he can write and sing it all.
I admit also have a soft spot for him right off because there's a link to KPIG radio on his site (www.michaelthomason.com ), and I've only ever seen that before at www.videoranch.com (another personal favorite). In any case, give this guy a listen. You'll be glad you did.
Kathy Coleman Take Country Back April 2002
Check out the artist's website:
1. Won't You Ever Learn
2. You Looked At Me
3. Practically Strangers
4. Born With A Broken Heart
5. Ain't It Great To Be Free
6. Oh Papa
7. Tower Of Song
8. Heart In A Glass
9. Something To Believe In
10. Nothing Comes To Mind