Thunder and Rain, a four song EP, is the latest offering from Jacksonville music bard Mike Bernos and his band, Ample Angst. If you’ve caught Mondo Mike and the Po’Boys playing a gig with Brittany Wescott (Spice) or Sara Sanders (Mama Blue) you know you get catchy melodies, infectious rhythms, and outstanding vocals.
The EP leads off with “Neon Love” and its smoky lounge feel and Joe Henderson’s slinky violin. Olivia Chernyshev’s crystal clear vocals on “Beans and Rice” intertwine perfectly with Molly Sweet’s (Junco Royals) Crescent City clarinet as it swells to a big band sound. The evocative “Let Her Go” weaves a sad, but not maudlin, tale of the loss of grace, and Cyrus Quaranta’s beautiful baritone voice hints at John Legend.
The title track is a gospel/folk infused medium tempo spiritual using Chernyshev and Quaranta as double lead singers who complement each other perfectly. Legendary cellist Dave Eggar’s sublime strings and scoring soar to a compelling coda. You’ll love it.
For “Let It Go,” Mondo Mike pens ambitious lyrics like “Gonna shake hands with the hands of fate/the deed is done and signed and sealed/and who am I now to break the deal?” and they flow perfectly with the instrumentation. “Kings and tyrants and presidents/sing their praises with irreverence/but the seas will rise with their reckoning,” from “Thunder and Rain,” is an elegant dig at those who seek to break our universal spirit.
There is nothing shy in these four songs. Mondo Mike, in the great New Orleans tradition of blending together voices, strings, and guitars, produces a refreshing sound with a bold presence.
Unless the recording sessions were filled with anxiety, there is also no angst in these four songs, just strains of gospel, folk, and N’awlins beats. I urge them to change the name of the group.
You’ll catch them on Michael Stock’s “Acoustic & Folk Show,” 91.3 WLNR, Miami-Ft Lauderdale, Sunday, December 17. Otherwise, you can listen at www.ampleangst.com.This is a fine first effort and you’ll be looking for more from this talented small group with a big sound.
By Ed Kellerman
Ed Kellerman is a communications professor at the University of Florida but prefers teaching the Honors Music course, The Roots of American Music: Blues and Beyond.