Mike Noga : Balladeer Hunter
Mike Noga, best known as the drummer for The Drones, when he found a lack of ‘soul’ in everything he heard on the radio, found he was exasperated with contemporary music. So, he wrote Balladeer Hunter, the follow up to his 2006 solo debut, Folk Songs.
This is the kind of record, subsequently, Noga wants to be able to listen to in a couple of decades time and have its soul and passion still resonate.
The album opens with M’Belle, a dark and moody tune that showcases Noga’s eloquence. However, the following track, The Cold Year, takes a different tack with country-inspired harmonica flourishes and a lumbering pace. A Long Week features strings that lend the track a delicate touch, but its driving beat and powerful lyrics and tone provide an interesting contrast of sounds.
One of the album standouts is Ballad Of An Ordinary Man, which features simple, acoustic strings that highlight the narrative of the lyrics in the tradition of Australian singer songwriters like Paul Kelly. However, Noga’s rough, emotive voice makes this song a treat to sing along to, creating a happily nostalgic mood.
Similarly, Eileen is steeped in memory as Noga reminisces about the character of the song. Although being devoid of much musicality throughout the track, presumably in order to focus on the lyrics, the odd insertion of violin is deftly applied. Thankfully, Piss On A Butterfly is more fast-paced. Plus, its title is more than chuckle-worthy. Regardless, it consistently continues the country-inspired musicianship with harmonica and simple acoustic strings that are both expertly attuned to the lyrics and the perfect antidote to urban life.
Rothko is another highlight, particularly for its poignant violin accompaniment throughout. Finally, I Will Have Nothing relies on slow acoustic guitar to introduce the solemn song, which begins with the lyrics “I will have nothing to pass onto my children / I will have nothing for them.” It’s a dreary finish to the album, but does offer an interesting lyrical perspective.
Considering his aim was to inject some much-needed soul into modern music, Noga has definitely succeeded. However, over-solemnity could make it a difficult listen for some. Overall though, carefully considered composition and subtle instrumentation is a strong enough point to make it very, very listenable.
Best track: Ballad Of An Ordinary Man,
If you like this you’ll like: Leonard Cohen, ‘70s-era Bob Dylan,
In a word: Varied.