Tony Fink
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Tony Fink

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"Tony Fink, Mayowulf Review"

by James Mason

Detroiter Tony Fink, shedding his grunge-band past, makes a major leap into the singer-songwriter mainstream with Mayowulf, his first solo effort. He is joined by a host of Detroit scenesters such as Jamie Monger and Scott McLintock from The Great Lakes Myth Society and Adam Walker from The Twilight Babies. Fink's accomplished acoustic guitar work is enhanced with guests on harmonica, bass, drums, synthesizers, bowed handsaw, and a 1970 Volvo for percussion. Showing maturity both in its music and in its lyrics, this is an album that speaks of an aging sensibility, an awareness of the passage of time and its broken hearts, hopes, and loves. “Becoming Petrified" brings the theme to light, with its opening stanza, “I am the light in the rain/I am no stranger than pain/I am a startling whisper/I am a cold blooded shiver." Fink's mournful vocals soar over a delicately plucked acoustic guitar and Nate Bynum's bass. "Strung-Over, Hung Out" is another track with a similar theme. It's a song of regret about binging on alcohol, and the ramifications of one's actions. “I know its getting bad when I can't make it to work til eleven/I don't even think I crashed until quarter to seven." But the tone of the album is not a sad marking of the passage of time, there's a definite charm in the grooves. “Skankz Need Jesus" tells the story of a man who had his heart broken by a less-than-perfect woman who needed some religious counseling. Of course, in Fink's vernacular, its much funnier. “The Rest You Want begins with a mile-a-minute rap about waiting tables before changing into a driving guitar, bass and drum jam, reminiscent of Julian Cope's “Kolly Kibber's Birthday", topped off with a Spanish trumpet line from Ryan Nolan that kicks the track into the upper reaches of godhead. “Estelle", which follows, begins with Fink summing up the previous track with a spoken ‘that was great" before plucking a simple acoustic melody that is picked up by Bynum's banjo and percussion created by hitting various parts of Fink's car. Yes, it's a love song to a car, and with the subtle word play, becomes one of the highlights of the album. Mayowulf is an excellent example of a songwriter having found his feet and heading out for a long walk to use them. - All Music Guide

"Tony Fink's Mayowulf"

music CD review


Michael Dunwoody

The first thing that hooked me about Tony Fink's new CD, Mayowulf, was the cover. It shows a contrived portrait bust of Fink, slyly hinting at the grandeur of Augustus, or Louis XIV, some 19th century beer baron or 21st century rap star. We notice the downcast eyes under wooly eyebrows, a Mona Lisa smile gone smirky, the cropped wig hinting at horns and beard reduced to a naughty soul patch. A frilly unbuttoned tuxedo shirt replaces the lace fall at the throat. Suddenly we're looking at the apotheosis of a cake decorator's art. And whoever tossed the ragged bouquets littering the base must have had a thing for talent and a skeptical eye. Probably some music/art critic.

The first bonus on the CD is Fink's voice, smoothly tough in the way of aluminum, or pewter. It's flexible, on pitch, evenly produced with only a few lapses in concentration. With a distinct DNA and wide range of effects, it almost always avoids affectations and mannerisms, except for a few "wow wow" vowels in "Halloween" and "The Rest You Want" (And yes, that last is crazy!). His voice is the best instrument on the CD.

In keeping with the retro direction of the droll cover, most of the instruments Fink uses were invented before electricity. They form a "What's What" of accousticana; guitar, F-horn, harmonica, melodica, drums, shaker, cymbal, a didgeridoo, a 1970 Volvo, and a bowed saw for godssake! And in a humorist's nod to the moderns, a Theremin along with the ARP 2600 synthesizer, electric guitar etc. The resulting variety is clever and witty and the group plays with confidence and imagination.

The whole suffers just the slightest from indie recording values. Maybe even just a little more editing, a little more reverb and compression to push that back, pull this up, squeeze one thing, stretch another? The quality of the voice and the lyrics already separate this CD from the ubiquitous Bang'n'Grunt bands and deserves a bit more.

Speaking of lyrics, Fink uses words like a poet, convinced a song has something to talk about beyond loopy repetitions and goes-without-saying commentary. There's no resisting lines like "I am no stranger than pain"(Becoming Petrified), "Sometime you don't want the sky to turn blue" and "too much too soon is hard to do"(Strung-Over Hung-Out), "Seventy percent of Cassandra is rain"(Seventy Percent of Cassandra), "There's a video about the making of the video"(Hollywood If I Could) and "She wiped her ass with his heart" (Skankz Need Jesus).

And while a few of Fink's frequent rhymes can "run madly off in all directions", there's a lot of reward in chunks of sound like the one that includes "Faygo and Stoli", "loathing", "strolling", "cajolin'" How about "didgeridooed" as a verb? Blimey!

Secure in the singer-songwriter tradition, Fink nods to his polystylistic influences; indie-emo, neo-punk, rap, retro 70's and 80's, bluegrass, Southern rock etc. etc. etc. It's cool to pick out the allusions, imitations, slap-and-kiss parodies Fink sometimes favors, using and abusing his models for his own pleasure, and ours.
This is a perfect fit for the slant he gives to the basic themes everyone's doing today. His takes on in-love out-of-love, social comment, angsty women and their angstier men, are slightly perverse, never shallow or boring. His best songs tell a story (Life Is Like That), outline a character (Seventy Percent of Cassandra) or combine these (Three Chords and Vermouth).

I look forward to Fink's next album. Maybe he'll fight the urge to show it all. Maybe he'll take on what most interests him. Maybe he'll deal head-on with what's behind the irony and laughter. Whatever, like this one, it will offer an alternative to the current market pressure for de-humanized machinery music that overlooks wider tastes and interests.

To listen to a few sample tracks from Fink's CD, go to radio and look for him in rotation on the D-Rox station.

To purchase Tony Fink's Mayowulf go to his website here.

Michael Dunwoody is a former high school English curricular chairman and adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of Windsor for ten years. He won an Author's Award for short fiction in 1987and has been published in various small literary magazines in Canada and the U.S. Currently Michael is working on a suite of poems about Detroit.



Tony is ramping up recording for an EP, and currently has 1 full length cd, Mayowulf, released in summer of 2004.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Tony's lyrics set him apart from the radio grist. His ability to dilute an experience of feeling into a metaphor or a idea is at the heart of his unique technique. Influences include the great lyricizing of artists like Wilco, Ryan Adams,Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, the Smiths, David Bowie, and Tom Waits. Musical and sylistic influences are drawn from artists like the Beatles, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Willie Nelson, Gillian Welch, and Rufus Wainwright.