REVIEW: Mike Noga – “The Balladeer Hunter”

Mike Noga (drummer from The Drones) is set to release his sophomore solo album The Balladeer Hunter on the 1st of April. Filled with acoustic ballads and stories, Noga has written an album that will click with some instantly, and evade the interests of others. That’s what makes it special – for many, the best albums are those that stretch boundaries. The albums that have to be understood over time to be properly appreciated and enjoyed.

Whether it’s intentional or not, the album feels like a dusty trudge through a perfect Australian landscape. That’s probably an overdone cliche, but I don’t really care in this case. Noga’s voice and the instrumentation have a distinctive Australian feel to them. Noga crafts music of a style that doesn’t seem to be as prevalent as it used to be, but people are unlikely to claim this release is past its time. This is music that will appeal to those who listen and pay attention to what’s being said. Those who are prepared to take in an album for what it’s truly worth. Sure, it’s unlikely to hit the top 40 charts, but it’s music with a brooding depth to it. Music that says what it wants to say, and says it well.

Behind the finger-plucked guitars and the occasional deep stomps and percussion is Noga’s coarse voice. Not uncomfortably coarse, but enough to add texture to the songs. Lofty strings make an appearance every now and again to complement the melodies. It’s the simplicity behind these additions that makes the music interesting without detracting from the messages being sent. Occasionally the music takes a more upbeat turn, and at other times it’s accompanied by a darker atmosphere, like the ominous booms on the excellent “Walk With Me”.

Noga seems like an old fashioned story-teller, and I mean that as a huge compliment. These are songs that would not feel out of place around a camp fire. Speaking only of the music I’m familiar with, Noga’s style is comparable to Australian legend Paul Kelly. His song-writing and lyricism focuses more on getting a message and story across. A feeling. A sensation. Instead of drawing upon abstract metaphor after metaphor and trailing into ambiguity, like so many lyricists do, Noga crafts songs and tells stories that make perfect use of his coarse, deep vocals. The musical textures help paint a rather vivid picture.

For many listeners, myself included, this release will be something quite new. It’s outside of my usual listening. Which is one of the most exciting things about blogging and being deeply involved in music – discovering new things! I urge you to give The Balladeer Hunter a go. Sit down and listen to a track or two with an open mind. There are qualities deep within this music you won’t find elsewhere, and if you take the time to find them for yourself, you’ll be rewarded well.

Take a listen to “M’Belle” below and see what you think.

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