REVIEW: Miss Lana Rebel & Kevin Michael Mayfield's The Midtown Island Sessions

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Miss Lana Rebel & Kevin Michael Mayfield's The Midtown Island Sessions. - FPE RECORDS
  • FPE Records
  • Miss Lana Rebel & Kevin Michael Mayfield's The Midtown Island Sessions.
The new album from Miss Lana Rebel and her trusty side-kick multi-instrumentalist Kevin Michael Mayfield is a journey through the past from start to finish. You can hear the ghosts of those nights of excess and the realities of cruel hungover mornings. You can feel the sorrows of your missed chances, sleepless nights and restless hearts forever wandering the countryside still searching for one more sip.

Before Rebel and Mayfield became a duo, Rebel had extensively toured with different backing bands and released three albums. Her songs have been featured on NPR, as well as country and Americana radio programs around the world—reaching top ten charts on college radio stations. Mayfield has a background in media arts with professional film scoring and music and film editing experience.

The album, titled The Midtown Island Sessions, begins with the upbeat full-band number called "Better Way to Live." The song is about letting go of something that is probably not too good for the soul to begin with, so Rebel forsakes all their fancy clothes, money and big ol’ Cadillac and head for the hills even, despite her mailbox full of bills and pocket full of sand.

Recorded in the spring of 2015 with Matt Rendon at Midtown Island Studios, Rendon both engineered the album and provided background vocals on the hauntingly sullen ”I Hope It Don’t Rain,” which is a standout track with Rebel singing lead and harmony vocals, accompanied by the full band. This song succinctly describes what it feels like to be traveling and looking for shelter before rain catches up with you, feeling tired from the road and just wanting to be with your lover.

Rebel is an excellent lyricist, with words that will knock you down where you stand like on "Memories To Spare"—a mournful campfire waltz with Rebel announcing in her sweet tone:

“Songs used to mean something to me
but songs have grown different, you see?
Where’s the blue eyes in the rain, waitin’ for a train?
songs have grown different to me.” 

“Graveyard Blues” is a beautiful song by Mayfield written from the perspective of someone who has recently died in their sleep, consoling their loved ones that are left to carry on. Mayfield sings lead and Rebel provides a sweet harmony which really pulls at the heart strings as they sing:

“Please do not cry,
please do not weep.
Last night I went to bed forever,
when I went to sleep”

Another highlight on this album is the Mayfield-penned “How the World Spins” with Mayfield on lead vocals and Rebel on harmony vocals and bass with a full band arrangement. The slow and catchy chorus features Mayfield and Rebel singing together beautifully, “That’s how the world spins, That’s how the jokes end. That’s the trees sway in the wind.” Rebel and Mayfield are making country music as it should be made: simple, beautiful and timeless.

A majority of songs on this album get the full band treatment with the help of Tim Gallagher (Hank Topless) on pedal steel, Bobby Carlson (Wanda Junes, Hermanitos) on bass and John Schier (Last of the Juanitas /Juanita Family) on drums. The album was released via FPE Records out of Chicago on vinyl ($16) and CD ($11) on Nov. 27. You can pick up the album at their release show at Club Congress (311 E. Congress St.) on Friday, Dec. 11, where they will be performing a special full-band performance of the album. The Wanda Junes and Hank Topless open the show. Doors are at 8 p.m. The show is free and it is a 21 and over event.

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