From Kaleidoscope Coffeehouse 2010 -
Mike was great last time he was here--great, visual songs about industrial Chicago and real life, wrapped up with
lots of story.
From Illinois Entertainer 1/2/08
While all the Johnny-come-lately folk singers of the past decade or so are much appreciated, make no mistake, Mike
Felten is the real deal. On Tossin' It Away, many of these songs are about Vietnam and LBJ, back during a time when he
first started playing music himself, hence the sparkle of authenticity here that many other folk albums lack. Also, thanks
to its stripped down sound, the unnecessary artifice that plagues other so-called folk albums is non-existent, making it all
the more enjoyable. (www.mikefelten.com)
- Dean Ramos
"Mike Felten owns a record store somewhere in middle America. He also has something most folks have long since given
up on - a conscience. Trust your politicians? Better find your common sense first." Big O Magazine -Singapore
From Tradition Magazine
This newest CD of Mike Felten finds the addition of bass to his guitar and a 'gospel' sounding piano player.
A little fiddle here and there too. Engineered by Lou Whitney at The Studio in Springfield, MO and Tom Herbers at Third Ear
Studio in Minneapolis has brought the voice of Felten to the forefront. Don't need the words on this one, I understand
every word he is saying..singing. 4,000 or our people dead in Iraq! A friend of mine said, that's nothing compared to
those that die on the highways every day in the USA. I was stupified. How can you even 'compare' the deaths of our
young people in a foreign land in a war killing people to those that die out of some mindless stupidity just as bad. I guess
Mike sees it that way too. Welcome to church of the unredeemed. Johnny Cash used to say 'redemption' was near impossible.
Maybe so, maybe so, but in the meantime we can still listen r big festival, and to the 'truth' as Mike Felten knows
it. He's been in his songs, he's seen his songs, he's smelled them and he's watched them...all of his life!
I've been a fan of Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Seeger, Leadbelly and many more all of my life. Mostly they were soul and truth
seekers. No wonder when something like "Brother, Where Art Thou" comes out and every thug in the music business
tries to bring it down, makes so much sense. I believe, like Mike, that maybe America has been sold out for greed. We sure
wouldn't be experiencing this incredible high price for gas if that hadn't happened. Think about it. America has been
sold out. I hope Mike Felten comes to LeMars for our big festival, and I hope if he does, you will seek him out and find out
what he's saying. If you're like me, you might not enjoy the truth, but you'll enjoy Mike - Bob Everhart
From Downtown Now -Springfield, MO. August 2006
By Bill Glahn
"With a James Dean jacket and a cigarette"
to Ghost in the House, by Mike Felten)
Mike Felten, a Chicago folk singer
and record store
owner, was in Lou Whitney's South Street studio in
early July recording tracks for his second album, the
follow-up to 2003's Landfill. "Ghost in the House,"
invocation of the 50's foremost symbol for
rebellion, was the first song up.
After a few takes,
Whitney called Felten into the control booth to listen
to a playback.
"You know, I had one
of those," Whitney tells Felten.
It was a lucid moment. Between the sound
musician, and journalist, there were more accumulated
years than some Mormon family reunions. Or so it
It's not often that this 51-year-old music journalist
could be referred to as "the kid" in a work situation
when an interview involves an artist
working on their debut or sophomore effort.
But it is
becoming less uncommon.
Felten is not the first AARP candidate to kick off a
recording career. Fat
Possum blues artist Robert
Belfour worked construction for 35 years before
releasing albums. Bob Frank, who was hailed as a
Bob Dylan" when his 1972 album on Vanguard
was released, took a 30-year sabbatical
to work on
irrigation systems in California after friction
developed between he and the record label. Rich
Capalbo and Andy Willis
of The Amoreys, were both over
50 when they released their first album, Tasty
in 2000. None of the above are nostalgia acts. "I hate
nostalgia," says Willis.
As the sessions
for Felten's record progressed,
Whitney would offer suggestions. "Try
it this time
with a little more 'ham.'" "Can you drop the key
notch?" Sometimes slight alterations in a song's
arrangement were made. Whitney commented to me about
ease in which Felten could adapt, the sign of a
seasoned musician who had worked
at his craft for many
years. About halfway through the first day of
recording, Whitney was marveling, "This is the best
batch of songs that have come through this studio in
at least five years."
Mike Felten has been writing and stockpiling his songs
for around 35 years. Bob Frank tells a similar tale.
"I never stopped
writing songs while I was working a
union job and raising my family," Frank
told me in a
2002 interview. "I've been refining them and writing
new ones all these years." Since Frank's release of
Keep on Burning that year, he has retired from his
job, released 2 more
critically acclaimed albums, and
now performs at folk festivals around the country
and Frank share, as well as many other
gray-haired "rookies," is they
are incredibly talented
artists who have led a workaday existence. They have
used that experience to craft songs that are rooted in
the way most of us live our lives. Both can be
political in their songs
and there is a maturity to
their politics, not often found in younger performers.
They know what they are for, as well as what they are
against. And they are using their advanced years to
express themselves in
a manner they have denied
themselves in the past.
"I played in a lot of cover bands for the cash," says
"trying to keep a family and a store afloat.
At one point I was playing seven
days a week, four
hours a night and six hours on Sunday. I don't know if
done it for 'exposure'
or one of those other words
that just mean 'free' in the musician's
lexicon. I got
paid and folks heard 'Proud Mary' and 'Green Grass
Home' instead of Landfill."
Felten downplays his natural ability. "Nothing about
music ever came
easy. As good or as bad as I am right
now, I worked hard to get here." Working
opening gigs for such folk luminaries as John Prine,
Bonnie Koloc and Steve Goodman in the early '70s and
for Utah Phillips. In the '90s he wound up with
a regular blues gig in a band
called Bellyfull of
Soul. "It seemed like every major blues artist sat in
with us at one time or another. Pinetop Perkins,
Brooks, Dancing Perkins, Jimmie Lee Robinson,
Lindsey Alexander, all the Maxwell
For his second album, Felten chose Springfield's
Whitney to record the basic tracks. Felten explains
the decision this way, "I always loved the Morrells
and the Skeletons.
It is always great to work with
somebody that was coming out of the boom box when
was digging potatoes in Michigan. He's done records
with a lot of people who I like. Guys like the Bottle
Rockets and Dave Alvin.
I had covers by both of those
guys on the list for my last band project. There
shared perspective on what a positive end result would
"I recorded Landfill with
Devin Davis, who has an
excellent, critically acclaimed album out. He is a
younger guy. I think the problem we had was that
one of us knew our roles. I'm not an engineer
and at the outset, he thought
that all he should be
WAS an engineer. By the time, he was comfortable
enough with me to voice an opinion, the project was
just about all in the can."
But Felten doesn't exclude the
possibility of working
with younger engineers in the future. "Age difference
is a double edged sword. On one hand, a young guy
might not catch your short hand, but they aren't as
entrenched in a
style or the 'way things have to be
done'. From my varied background,
I didn't know if I
should make a blues album or a rock album or country
album or a folk album. In the end, I just wanted to
make a 'Mike' album. I think the edges were a little
on Landfill than the one we are working on
"Lou is still making music. He knows what it is to be
a lifer. A lot of the wizards that we grew up with are
selling time shares.
Making a living is important, but
making music is paramount in our scheme of things.
Devin was great and I think he'll be where we are
thirty years from now. I don't think he'd know what a
jacket was, but Lou did."
Despite their talent and experience, demand
artists by major record companies is almost nil. Radio
play is unheard of outside of non-profit community
To expose their music, these artists are
adapting the DIY philosophy of the punks
mid-70's. Both Felten and Frank own their own record
labels. They both have websites and do their own
Frank has found a nitch market at folk
festivals while Felten's left-leaning
have found an audience in Belgium, Northern France,
and among striking Opel workers in Germany.
When it comes right down to it, though, mass
acceptance is not a motivating
factor. Life can make
you a realist and Felten knows the odds of having a
hit record are slim, even to those signed to a major
label. He doesn't want to be a rock 'n' roll star. His
are more humble than that.
"I'm not trying to impress the girls
and make them
sorry they spurned me. I've spent enough nights in
motels. In the mid 1980's when we were relatively at
peace, a woman by the name of Jan Maara got up and
sang Steve Goodman's
anti-war song 'Penny Evans' at a
festival in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Some
musicians that were there, said that they wished to be
entertained and not preached to. Twenty odd years
we are in
the same quagmire. I wonder if we all sang 'Penny
Evans' as much as we sang 'God Bless The USA' for the
past twenty years, if we'd been in the same situation.
We should all
stand in place and sing about who we are
and what things should be. Stardom or
fame is just
another devil that has to be confronted."
"Pete Seeger entitled his autobiography, 'How Can I
Keep From Singing?' _Expression is not a choice but a
is the novel for the short attention
span. At the very least, my grandchildren
will be able
to listen to my stuff and know who I was."
There is a sense of mortality in that final sentence
comes with age. It's a sense that is instinctive
in most all of us that are
nearer to the end of our
lives than the beginning of it. There is an urgency to
strip away the bullshit and find the things in our
lives that are the most important and to pass that
knowledge on to future
Felten explains his opening line to "Ghost in the
House" this way: "The verse is about the bad decisions
we make in our youth and ignorance where we sometimes
reject the pure hand
The myth is that James Dean's jacket in "Rebel
A Cause" was red to signify anger. The truth of the
matter is that Dean bought the jacket after he learned
movie was going to be in color so he would stand
What Felten is leaving his grandchildren is a lesson
how to cut through the crap. And that's a valuable
lesson to learn at any
Community Free Press Midweek
Read the entire article "Mixin It Up - Working Man Style" http://www.cfpmidweek.com/weeks/030304/showme.htm
Mike Felten “Save Her Old Man” Here's a heart-wrenching
story about a man and his child following a permanent layoff from a long-held job during a cold winter in Michigan . Everybody
who worked at VF Jeans in Lebanon , Missouri will relate. “Save Her Old Man” appears on Felten's Landfill
album, a disc that any person that has ever broken a sweat will appreciate. It's tough to find locally, but easily available
on the net at http://www.mikefelten.com
| || || |
by Wesley Willis
You can really rock it out.
mike felten is very special to me.
mike felten is excellent.
You really whoop a snow lepoard's ass.
About 89300 people like mike felten.
mike felten really whoops a camel's ass.
You can really rock it out.
You are a mike felten star.
mike felten is excellent.
are a mike felten star.
mike felten is the best.
You can really rock it out.
Rock over London,
don't have too many authentic 'folk' singers anymore, at least not any that are really out there making statements
about life, good or bad, flawed or unflawed. Ralph Peer went out into the wilderness to find his stars, no less than Jimmie
Rodgers and the Carter Family. Do they do that today? Are you kidding? No, that's why America's music is nothing but
trash. If Ralph Peer were alive today, it is without doubt that he and Mike Felten would've teamed up. What Felten does
on Landfill (his first cd) is to seek truth. He does it quite well too, though he doesn't 'embellish' his harsh
statements and excellent observations, he doesn't need to. Any one with intelligence and a seeking for the 'difference'
that is so missing in today's music offerings, will eventually 'find' Mike Felten. Mostly guitar (I'm sure
it is his own) and a little harmonica here and there. I'm glad the words to these self penned songs are printed in the
insert. My hearing is not the best, so I needed that to help me fully underswtand what Mike is saying. I'm glad I took
the time to make sure what I was hearing was correct, because this guy is a true creative writer. A lot of what Mike is writing
about is near or below the poverty level. How our society has changed with 'industry' as our boss. How 'big business'
is making the poverty line rise. I also like his gangling teen love approach to some of life's most miserable moments.
All in all this is one fine poet, and his melody lines match what he is saying quite well. - Bob Everhart
Rock & Rap Confidential 2-14-04
"Felten specializes in crossing up expectations: Is this an angry John Prine? Lynyrd Skynyrd folk-rock? Roots
rock with occasional cowbell? The songs are smart, funny and sound full even when all that's going on is a couple of guitars
and a little percussion."
From Pete Smith - Country Music Round-up (UK)
Mike Felten “Landfill” (Landfill Records). This really is an album in two parts. The first
four tracks are aggressive, sometimes jaundiced views of life very reminiscent of an early Bob Dylan. From track six the urban
poetry gives way to the blues. This really is a great album. I love Felten’s voice and the way he attacks his acoustic
guitar particularly on the early part of the album and it is those five songs that appeal to me most. I am sold on “Abortion
In Chinatown”, “Life Goes To Hell”, Sister” and “Save Her Old Man”. The blues part of
the programme kicks off in fine style with “Margie Got A Boyfriend” and continues in the same vein with “Finntown
Hearse”, “Talkin’ 66 Summer School Blues” and “Stomp On The Terra”.
Review in RootsTown Music Free-zine 74 - 2003
“The last three weeks
this cd hasn’t been out of the player and it will stay that way for weeks to come. Mike Felten comes warmly recommended!”
Mike Felten / Landfill / Landfill (www.recordemporium.com)
Tja, dat was even zoeken. Zoeken om iets meer te weten te komen
van ene Mike Felten, en dat viel niet mee. Mike wie? Mike Felten dus! Nu komt het best vaker voor dat je ‘iets’
voor het eerst hoort of ziet, toch? Enige jaren geleden was ene Kevin Meisel daar nog een mooi voorbeeld van. Maar van Mike
Felten had ik dus echt nog nooit gehoord, ook niet via via. Nu lag daar opeens een cd van deze beste man (die al vanaf midden
jaren zestig muziek blijkt te maken en ook nog eens al ruim 20 jaar een ‘indie’ recordstore schijnt te bestieren)
in m’n cd-speler, Landfill geheten. De eerste kennismaking deed mij in ieder geval denken aan Tom Ovans en
heel soms aan onze ‘eigen’ Michael de Jong. Anderen spreken dan weer over ‘John Prine´s sadder and
funnier brother’, doch één ding is mij diverse luisterbeurten later in elk geval heel erg duidelijk geworden:
Mike Felten is niet van deze wereld! En als ie dat wel is dan is deze kerel er al zo lang dat hij op de nodige levenservaring
kan bogen, ervaring met oog voor die zaken waar het werkelijk om gaat. Kan niet anders, want dan schrijf je niet zulke teksten
als Felten doet. Of zoals een vriend het, na hem dit schijfje te hebben uitgeleend, zo mooi weet te typeren: “…zomaar,
zonder te weten waarom, of nog erger: volkomen op mijn verkeerde been staande, zegt mijn wettige echtgenoot plotseling: “Acht.” Wat nou, acht, weet ik nog uit te kramen, maar echt verder kom ik ook niet. Mijn ‘Sweetheart Of The
Rodeo’ spreekt dan de koninklijke toverformule uit om ons huisgezin te verlossen van een matte, enigszins lome staat
van complete reddeloosheid, welke sinds de intrede van een cd bij ons heeft postgevat, gelijk een dood vogeltje in de broekzak
van de gelaarsde kat. Zij zegt letterlijk: “Egypte heeft zeven verzoekingen van de Almachtige moeten ondergaan, maar
de achtste heeft de westerse muziekmaatschappij over zichzelf afgeroepen!” Die avond aan de dis zegt ze: “dat
niemand ons ooit iets heeft verteld over Mike Feltens cd Landfill, dat wij hem nog nooit tijdens Take Root in Assen
hebben mogen aanschouwen, nog nooit iets van hem op de radio hebben mogen vernemen, is al te gek voor woorden.” Sinds
drie weken zit er één cd in onze schijvenbabbelaar en voorlopig komt hij er niet meer uit! Mike Felten is dus
een regelrechte aanrader! (LK)
(For those of you who aren't
versed in the language of Belgium, we ran it through one of those free translators you find on the internet. Here's what
Tja, that was just as zoeken. To zoeken something more to be possible come of one Mike Felten, and that did not turn
out better than expected. Mike which? Mike Felten therefore! Now occurs best more often that you hear ' something '
for the first
time or see, nevertheless? Some years was suffered
one Kevin Meisel of it still a beautiful
example. But of Mike
Felten I had never heard therefore real, also not indirectly. Now there suddenly a cd of this best man (who appears already
in the middle of years sixty musics and also once more
already wide 20
make years ' indie ' govern recordstore
seems) in my cd-speler lay, Landfill been called. The first familiarisation did think me in any case to TOMs Ovans and
very sometimes to our ' own ' Michael the young. Others contradict
then concerning ' John Prine's sadder and funnier
', yet one thing me several lustre turns have become later anyway
complete very clear: Mike Felten are not of this world! And if ie that, however, then is this kerel is there already
long that he is possible arcs on the necessary life
experience, experience with eye for that matter where it concerns really. Do not be possible differently, because then you
do not write such texts such as Felten do. Or such as a friend it, after him this disc to have lent, this way beautiful weet
to typify: "...zomaar, without for knowing why, or still more terrible: completely my leg found oneself on standing,
my legitimate spouse says suddenly: Considers.What nou, consider, weet I still from at kramen, but really further bowl I also
not. My ' Sweetheart or The rodeo ' speak then the royal toverformule from
to release our house family of frosted, slightly heavy state of complete reddeloosheid, which since the entrance
of a cd at us mail has had, right dead vogeltje in the trousers pocket of the gelaarsde cat. She says litterally: Egypt seven
verzoekingen of omnipotent have had undergo, but the eighth has called the Western music society concerning itself!That evening
to the dis says them: that nobody us ever something concerning Mike Feltens to cd has told
Landfill, that we him never during Take Root in Assen have been possible
contemplate, never something of him on the radio have been possible learn, is already too crazy for words.Since three
weeks have been sitting there one cd in our
and provisionally has been coming he no longer! Mike Felten are therefore a straight must! (LK)
So to all of you a hearty "zomaar". Stop standing on one leg with your 'legitimate spouse" a
good screwdriver will get my piece of 'reddeloosheid' out of your 'schijvenbabbelaar'. Haven't figured
out the part about the 'trousers pocket of the gelaarsde' cat yet. Ah, there is no ignorance like American ignorance!
And yes, I know that ignorance was spelled wrong in one spot and not one of the three or four people that read this told me
From Radio Atl "Roots Revival" -
"I will give your
disc regular airplay in my radio show because you 're damn good..." - Ray Swennen.
From Michael Leahy - KDVS
- University of California - Davis
"I played the track
Abortion in Chinatown and will play Landfill next week. Thanks again...great work"
Alternative Culture Guide > Husgow Record Guide > July 10,
Mike Felten could be John Prine's sadder and
funnier brother. A record store owner by trade, Felten will have you weeping one minute ("Save Her Old Man") and
in stitches the next ("You Could Have Had This"). And his songs work best when they mix both tragedy and humor,
such as on "Talkin' 66 Summer School Blues" which invokes both Columbine and Eddie Cochran ("Mama Papa
told me, Son, you got to make some money if you want to use a gun or go shooting next Sunday. Well, I called my Congressman
and he said, quote, 'Fuck off you little bastard, you're too young to vote.") Somewhere on the twilight side
of 50, Felten has written a set of songs that speak more about survival than great expectations. And anyone who can make a
living as an indie record shop owner for over 20 years is most certainly a survivor. So, kid, if you wanna get by in this
mean, old world, you better get a sense of humor. Grade: B+, an A with better production
** Mike has been making music since 1965 and he's been an owner &
operator of an independant music store for the last 24 years - so
he's certainly no newbie to the biz-niz - here's an honest, heartfelt
release for a change; no agenda for world domination, nothing of the
sort - just pure Americana from a man who's been doing this for years.
Cool singer/songwriter stuff ala JOHN PRINE/BOB DYLAN..
the blurb on the back about indie stores! - Southern Records
time Indie store owner and 60's/70's folkie released an album by
popular demand. Shared the stages w/ JOHN PRINE and STEVE GOODMAN
during the chicago folk explosion AND sold their records at his
store…..Elements of country, folk, blues, and rock. Definite streaks of JOHN PRINE, STEVE EARLE, JOHNNY DOWD,
and JIM WHITE. Not convinced? Check out www.recordemporium.com and click on WEASELWORLD….Some of the best industry
commentary! - Choke Records
Cheah boys in Singapore have more integrity in their reviews than the majority of their U.S. counterparts. This isn't
glowing, but you can bet it is honest. Read them. They will send you a weekly e-mail if you ask firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell 'em Mike sent you.)
'In a moment
of sincere self-deprecation, singer-songwriter Mike Felten sent his new CD, Landfill, together with a roll of toilet paper.
In his liner notes, Felten says: "What you have here isn't perfect, by any means. Life is flawed and uneven, I'm
just trying to get after the truth." And yes, Landfill is flawed. It isn't musically stunning and isn't lyrically
breathtaking. But it achieves what Felten has aimed for, getting to grips with stories about ordinary people and their worries
of domestic violence (Sister), unemployment (Save Her Old Man) and dashed hopes (Life Goes to Hell). Still, there are at least
two worthy tracks, the catchy Talking 66 Summer School Blues, where Felten outlines his generation against that of Columbine.
And the beautiful title track, Landfill, which unlike most of the other songs, is written powerfully and succinctly: "Landfill,
landfill/Bustin' tail, paying bills/ Landfill, landfill/ On this earth by force of will." (5) - Philip Cheah'
Mike Felten’s Landfill
Mike Felten has been playing
music since the 1960’s. Even his new CD echoes the great, classic music of that era. His style hasn’t changed,
and listening to the new songs one feels like Jim Morrison is ready to launch his own melody any minute.
general overtones are bluesy, folksy and country-like. The style is simple, with a guitar accompanying the boyish voice. These
are songs that speak to everyman USA, the guy you used to be and wish you still were before life took over. The lyrics reach
back to the good life, the old life, the simple life.
In the first single, “Abortion
in Chinatown,” he shows that he hasn’t mellowed in his attempts to speak his mind. Felten takes on controversial
and intriguing subjects and brings them down to earth to make them accessible to the everyman mentioned above.
In “Life Goes to Hell,” Felten shows his talent for deep and poetic lyrics, which befits his education in creative
writing at Columbia College. He also displays his uncanny ability to make deep thoughts come out simple and relatable, and
expresses his own discontent with certain parts of life, but that we all live through them and get through them.
The track “Sister” speaks of issues in the family that everyone has. It speaks of relationships and can be
understood to refer to all family issues and relationships, just as everyman has them.
“Talkin 66 Summer
School Blues” takes us back to high school, the good ole’ days, memories of the past, when the worst thing that
happened was failing a class and having to sit through summer school.
“You Could’ve Had This”
also has the past and the future. Remembering what things used to be like and wondering if you’ve made the right decisions
in life. Is it worthwhile to think back? Or should we be satisfied with what we’ve done and where we’ve come?
These themes are veiled by simple language and accounts.
“Stomp on the Terra” is an intense song,
as the name implies.
Much of the lyrics deal with past versus future, the old life verses
the new, the ability to move on, and the question of which is really better? Perhaps it is Felten’s own quandary about
moving on, and how comfortable he is himself with continuing to play music just as he did 40 years ago. Are the good old days
really better? Or is it the way we memorialize things in our heads and tend to whitewash them and remember only the good times?
Maybe life now is better after all. Maybe we need to move on. Either way, this is life, and it goes on. Felten doesn’t
offer explicit answers, but the subject is planted in the listeners’ mind.
Either way, the music is easy
to listen to and soft on the heart. For the listener who wants to hear the songs, the messages are there. For those who just
want some good music to relax to, it is equally satisfying.
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