Mike Brownell
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Mike Brownell

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Run Your Fingers Through The Past

Review of: SHINE, EP
Mike Brownell, Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist

Local Chicagoan and acoustic guitarist Mike Brownell is a starving artist: a musician hungry for the ears of anyone who will listen. Unbeknownst to the artist, however, is that when he sings people can’t help but pay attention. Brownell has the kind of voice most would describe as velvet-like, the kind of vocal charm that puts one at ease and brings to the soul a sense of melancholic transcendence reflective of those fleeting moments when life is much like a dream.

Listening to his words, you feel where he’s been and you feel the angst he has in trying to get to where he wants to be. Brownell reminds you that fear, numbness, pain, and desperation are all relevant to each individual and that exploring those emotions is the only way to gain hindsight and ultimately, redemption. It would be cliché and possibly trite if his sound came from a hollow place but instead the sincerity of his words brings weight to his verse.

The production is simple: Just Brownell and his guitar, reaching out for an ear – for somebody to listen to what he has to say. He wants you to remember, he wants you to feel, and he ultimately wants you to heal.

Brownell’s the guy singing at the neighborhood Coffee Shop, the one who you feel like you might know, the guy with yearning in his voice that makes you wonder how he got to this point, and if he’ll ever get past it. He reminds you that the dark side of humanity is something that should not be glossed over. His throaty voice reaches out to passers by and grows ever clearer as it draws them in. He unmasks the seemingly invincible and strips away the pride that divides the stings of human connectivity.

On ‘Baby’, he sings in a trembling voice, “Blank looks turn to madness/
On a fool ridden status/Run my fingers through the past”, and you feel his pain – you can’t help but remember the power of a broken heart.

On ‘Give Yourself,’ he croons: “Oh so it’s not your day/But the sun will come, come what may/Oh as good as gold as light as snow/Right as rain”. More than anything, Brownell’s music is about setting a mood. He wants you to experience what he is feeling – and it’s hard not to when you hear the heart-felt sadness, impending eagerness, and eventual enjoyment of life in his voice. For most of us in this world, it’s not our day. But good things will come, just as he promises.

On ‘Unwind’, he picks up the pieces and compels his guitar (and his voice) to bring an upbeat message. A message that comes at us in many forms daily but somehow is still left unrealized. Brownell gives us a song, a catalyst, to do just that.

Brownell’s songs contain something that is severely lacking form today’s acoustic crowd, in a word, truth. His songs are laced with melancholy but each one tells a tale of the endearingly awkward, unrelenting truth of life. The listener can hear the authenticity of his message and in response can take his own trip to times gone by. Reflection, Mike reminds us, is a very necessary and powerful tool. Enticing us with his sandpaper crooning he keeps us interested with his unassuming moments of heartache and healing that he softly captures, unveils, and sets free with each strum.

We all need an excuse to stop and feel once and a while, Mike Brownell gives us the invite as well as the soundtrack to stop and run our fingers through the past.


Reviewed By:
Matthew Wood | Associate Editor
AOL City Guide


- Matthew Wood, AOL City Guide


Discography

SHINE (EP):
Fool, Siren, Give Yourself, Good Things, Shine, Baby

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Bio

Mike Brownell grew up in the Detroit area where he was exposed to a vast array of musical genres, all of which intrigued him from the youngest of ages. In the beginning it was his father who introduced him to what would be his first musical influences. During their annual 13-hour treks to upstate New York, Motown, Doo-wop, folk and early rock spoke to Mike compelling him to sing along. “At first, I was just being a goofy kid trying to imitate Buddy Holly’s twang or Louis Armstrong’s growl,” but as each hour passed, the music seeped deeper and deeper into his collective conscious and invoked in him an elusive emotion he had yet to experience in his young life. Simply put, he took a new interest in music, more specifically in the voices and sounds that filled him with such an indescribable energy.

After attending Michigan State University and playing at various local venues like The Small Planet, Rick’s and The Landshark, he moved back to the Detroit area and began playing with a longtime childhood friend in a two-man acoustic set. This musical combo allowed Mike to fully realize his potential as a musician and a vocalist. It’s also where he began to draw inspiration from his childhood road trips and other musical encounters from his youth. From Dion and the Belmonts and Patsy Cline, to Led Zeppelin, Al Green, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, to Otis Redding and Elton John, Mike took in the music and with it the indescribable connectivity between himself and the influences that propelled him to create.

“I’ve never clung to a particular sound of music but rather just listened to whatever made me feel good and I try drawing inspiration wherever I can from all of it.”

The next step was taking his voice to the Windy City where he recorded his first album and hit the live-performance scene taking the stage at such venues as the Double Door, The Wise Fools Pub, Hog Head McDunna’s, amongst other local favorites. His gift lies within his uniquely original songs, written straight from the depths of pain and the heights of joy. Showcasing his talent as a singer as well as the poetic justice he brings to his fans with his heartfelt and intimate lyrics has proven to be a seemingly effortless act. His whimsical intensity is perfectly balanced with the sincerity of his hindsight. His ability to transcend literal time and place and take the listener back to a memory of their own is only surpassed by his invitation to relate on the most human of levels. It is that type of experience that lends reason to the loyalty of Mike’s fan base who frequent his shows at various venues.