This article originally appeared in the Charlotte Creative Loafing April 11th, 2007. Written by El Diablo. In just over three years, Mike Strauss --- the man David Childers calls 'the best young songwriter in Charlotte' -- has put together a more-than-respectable catalog of rural rock; his third and latest, After All, should only up the ante. Strauss recorded the just-released After All at Chris Garges' Old House Studios in Gastonia with what amounts to a roster of local all-stars. Forming the core of the band was noted jazz bassist Ron Brendle, drummer David Kim (Fence Lions), Jason Atkins on keys, and Randolph Lewis (Les Dirt Clods). Strauss says he 'put a lot of trust' in Lewis, who produced, provided arrangements and co-wrote two songs. 'Randolph's naturally inclined to streamline songs,' says Strauss. 'He convinced me we needed to do this as live as possible, and instead of falling on our faces, I think we did six of the songs that first day, often in one or two passes. I was real happy with the results.' Brendle was a last-minute fill-in for Jon Schigoda, who played bass on Strauss' two previous records -- 2004's Gone Electric and 2005's How in the World? -- but was unavailable during these recording dates. 'I didn't think Ron would do it, but I was more than thrilled when he said 'yes,'' Strauss says. The result of the five-day recording session last winter is his strongest collection --- a record whose power is as much subtle and cumulative as it is immediate. After All's rich accents, particularly Atkins' keys, and pedal steel from Rob Barrone and Rodney Lanier, set Strauss' rough-hewn, part-Mark Knopfler/part-Nashville Skyline Dylan vocals in even greater relief, adding to the record's laid-back feel and compelling narratives. 'I don't like the literal that much, so I even disguise the meanings of songs from myself at times,' says Strauss, who was influenced by the narrative simplicity of Ali Farka Toure's collaboration with Ry Cooder, Talking Timbuktu, as well as the songwriting of Tom Waits and Malcolm Holcombe. 'Waits' songs taught me that you can re-visit subjects and find new perspectives on the same events,' Strauss says, 'and Malcolm's lyrics are oblique, but you get a sense that you know what he's talking about.' Judging by After All, you could say the same for Strauss. He and the band celebrate the CD's release Saturday, April 21, at the Evening Muse, after an in-studio appearance at WNCW the day before. From The Charlotte Observer Sunday, April 15th edition. By Courtney Devores With a voice that's a touch husky, a matter-of-fact delivery and interesting phrasing, Charlotte-based singer-songeriter Mike Strauss is a fine substitute for Mark Knopfler. His low-key 'After All' employs a cast of well-known Charlotte musicians who fill out Strauss' acoustic, folk sound, including producer Randolph Lewis (Les Dirt Clods, Goldenrods) and guest musicians Rodney Lanier, Lenny Federal, Shana Blake and Reeve Coobs. Strauss' lyrics are direct without being intensely personal. 'The Thread' sounds as if it was plucked from Guy Clark's 'Cold Dog Soup.' The harmonica-spiked 'Something Feels Like Nothing At All' could be a Tom Petty track. And members of the Stragglers give the shuffling 'Lesser of the Two' a gospel feel.
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