Pittsburgh native (and acapella mainstay) Mike Why’s EP “Run My Mouth” was released with six well-arranged and diverse tracks that showcase the width and depth of Why’s talents both in the studio behind the mic and the console. It is obvious Why has spent years honing his crafts in the acapella circuit and found an audience coast to coast and has since set out as a solo artist that makes a very strong statement with his first solo album, ‘Run My Mouth.’
Starting with The White Stripes 2003 hit, ‘Seven Nation Army’ Why introduces the song as a two part harmony and within the first verse we have expanded into fully realized vocal percussion, electric guitar, point/counterpoint and an attentive call and response that finds Alex Clares runaway hit, ‘Too Close’ dropped in between verses. An interesting choice to bring two pieces that are harmonic cousins and have them mix well together. It is also a subtle choice as it works without having to make any rhythmic or harmonic addendums in real time and thus keeps the momentum Why establishes in the opening sixteen bars of the album. Listening to the vocal percussion on ‘Seven Nation Army’ the ear is never lacking variety as Why includes “live” drum fills in transitioning into different sections of the piece and also accenting key moments of the piece.
The second track is one of three original pieces Mike Why includes on ‘Run My Mouth.’ ‘Say What Ya Say (Blah, Blah, Blah)’ is a declaration of keeping focused and motivated while enduring naysayers and detractors on your own journey to the top. ‘Say What Ya’ say opens with a pedal point with a (vocal) horn section sitting on top that wouldn’t be out of place out of a Chicago or Tower of Power record that serves as an overture to Why’s anthem to self-reliance. For the most part it is an ABA form, but the midpoint of the song Why takes the hook and reharmonizes the B section before releasing us back into the A section for one last push to the end.
The Neon Trees lend ‘Animal’ to the third track on ‘Run My Mouth.’ ‘Animal’ combines the best of the previous tracks (horn sections, interesting vocal percussion and a deep understanding of four (sometimes five) part harmony) and showcases them in an uplifting, taut arrangement that tools his vocal percussion more an ensemble than as a substitute for a drummer. I would be curious to know how many voices Why used in the making of ‘Animal,’ keep an ear to the defacto bridge as Why’s tenor-centric “Hush, Hush the world is quiet” takes your ear into a peaceful spot and the main melody sails over the top to bring the song to a close.
‘Set Me Free’ is the second original piece Why gives us in ‘Run My Mouth.’ As a loop artist, composer and arranger; Mike’s use of reverse playback, filters and phasers pushes this song into a truer form of Electro than any other track on ‘Run My Mouth.’ The interludes and harmonic reworking that Why incorporates into other tracks is absent here, and I wonder what would happen if he reproached the song as a straight up Electro take. What I found effective is the use of smaller pieces of vocalization that offer new ways of exploring rhythms along the way. Instead of a true bass line, ‘Set Me Free’ uses a drone sitting on the bottom the entire song both during the verse and chorus. The reverse playback is used as an effect as well and not over done. The choice to use it as subtly as he does shows a deft hand in arranging that some artists lack.
‘Gold Digger’ finds it’s way onto Mike Why’s EP and rightfully so. Groove, hooks and catchy lyrics make this tune a joy to listen to, and if you have ever seen Mike Why live….a joy to perform! For me this tune is the most fully realized on ‘Run My Mouth.’ Mike pays tribute to both the Hip Hop and R&B worlds by using the close harmonies (Think ‘Thriller’) that make the transitions easy and push you over the bar line and into the next verse.
‘Run My Mouth’ draws to a close by revisiting ‘Say What Ya Say (Blah, Blah, Blah). This time with a few reworkings and more importantly featuring a rap interlude by Billy Pilgrim. This cut of ‘Say What Ya Say’ like ‘Gold Digger’ Mike uses octaves to beefen up horn sections and also vocal pads beneath the melody. It gives the ear something to grab onto while harmonies expand and contract around them if not only to serve as extra punch both as a harmonic , but also rhythmic device.
‘Run My Mouth’ delivers throughout its taut six tracks and there are moments that certain clichés from the looping world could have been utilized and become, well, cliché. Mike Why gives you just enough of one thing then moves onto the next. The vocal percussion is never flashy or over the top, but it is effective both the placement and execution. A few spots lend themselves for another listen as a creative gem was starting to get culled, and then moved onto for something else, but not enough to ruin the integrity of the record.
Moving forward, I am curious to see if Mike Why employs vocal effects be it live or in post during his shows and recordings. What he delivered on this EP I have seen him very effective in translating it live, to see what happens next while be an exciting experience. On the flip side of the coin, if Mike went back into the ranks of the acapella community, how would his experiences as a solo artist effect him in that setting?
‘Run My Mouth’ can be picked up at Mike Why’s website WhyMikeWhy.com. Mike Why can be followed on Facebook here and be kept up with in the Twitter-verse at@ MikeWhyTweets.
January. 17, 2015
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Just Alliance's Blog
Thoughts, ideas and musical musings from this Silver State Loop Artist.