Suburban Speakeasy – EP
On Mitch Dean’s new EP ‘Suburban Speakeasy’ you can hear the history of roots music, filtered through a decade of song writing and live shows and culminating in five songs that explore heartache, tender love and muddied emotional waters.
From a shed in the suburbs of Melbourne, Mitch set about crafting songs that spoke to universal concerns, daily troubles and the realities of life. The title Suburban Speakeasy is “a reference to those prohibition-era 1920’s homes where people would come to forget their worries, congregate, talk, muse and dream… all with the aid of a drink of course! It kind of summed up the destination and the writing process for this EP,” reflects Mitch.
After spending 10 years writing and performing as part of the alt-country rock band ‘The Distance’, Mitch felt the time was right to move from side of stage and shine a new light on his own songs. “Making an EP to call my own was something I’d always wanted to try for a long time but never really had the reason to do so.”
Enlisting the talents of producer/mixer Colin Leadbetter (Katie Noonan, Whitley), and surrounding himself with a collection of some of Melbourne’s finest musicians, including Andy Reed (drums), Joe Cope (Hammond organ), Sarah-Rose McIvor (piano), Colin Leadbetter (bass), Brendan Mitchell (pedal steel), Damian Cafarella (electric guitar, mandolin) and Jemma Nicole (backing vocals), Mitch has recorded an EP that serves as a signpost to his future musical direction and shows the strength of his songwriting abilities.
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Mitch’s songs are steeped in imaginative storytelling, the kind that leaves the listener believing he has lived and loved like the characters in his songs. Musically he effortlessly straddles the worlds of acoustic and electric country and folk music – perfectly blending them into what is now considered Americana music. Suburban Speakeasy drifts from catchy melody-driven tunes to downright dark and foreboding at times, with a real sense of melancholy. His influences draw from old time favourites Neil Young, Dylan and Petty, but also some newer lights including Gary Louris (Jayhawks), Ryan Adams and Kevin Bennett (the Flood).
With a high, yearning vocal sound, Mitch opens the EP with the seasonal strains of ‘Before the Fall’. Its heady melodicism conjures up open roads and wide plains as he sings of a lover’s ever-changing heart. ‘Muddy Water’ ventures into darker Americana-noir territory, accompanied by lush, ominous orchestration and Jemma Nicole’s haunting vocal “Muddy water hides the lies until the tide runs out“ sing the pair, through the gothic tale of death and guilt. ‘Something To You’ lifts the mood with a Ryan Adams-styled devotional ballad that trades in beautiful lyrical phrasing and a timeless take on the tangled intricacies of relationships. ‘Like A Thief’ finds a rich, warm groove to ride on, a nod to one of Mitch’s strongest influences in The Jayhawks. It also highlights his ability to craft a melodic verse that shifts up a level to a soaring chorus, elevating the tale of a spurned lover, abandoned and cast adrift. Rounding out the EP is the five minute ‘Shelter From The Rain’, a gorgeous Hammond organ-led song that spotlight’s Mitch’s arrangement skills and ability to corral tension, storytelling and emotional resonance into a single track. It builds and builds without ever resorting to bombast or overt rock-isms. He sings of vulnerability and both the risk and solace found in giving oneself over to another person in a relationship.
As a debut solo release, Suburban Speakeasy is a commanding example of the art of song writing and how depth and lyrical poetry can be found in music that deals primarily with affairs of the heart. Modern country music demands authenticity and Mitch Dean, as a solo artist, is undoubtedly an auteur in that regard.
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