Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
Kansas native and singer-songwriter Logan Mize has released his 5th full-length album Welcome to Prairieville. Mize stops short of calling this a concept album, but there is a clear theme running through this superb piece of modern Heartland Rock/Country.
Based around life in a fictional mid-western American town of Prairieville, you can’t help but feel on listening to this that Mize has channelled his own life experiences and those of his friends and family into these songs.
The fact that Mize owns and works part-time on his own farm in the mid-west and therefore lives the small-town mid-western life himself when he can only adds the sort of authenticity that many of the Nashville hit-machine writers can only try to fabricate. Through the songs and the stories on this album, Mize and his co-writers have created the feel of a real town, where we meet the people, places and events that happen on its fictional streets.
The album has a broad and varied sound that combines the very best of modern Country with loads of Heartland Rock influences, including several nods back to the sort of sounds that would have been heard back in the 1980s. This works surprisingly well: Mize has a beautiful baritone Country voice which can cover pretty much all of the bases required.
In fact, it’s his voice that gives some of the more Rock-inflected tracks their true Country signature. He is also not afraid to use pedal steel in his songs, something which many of his Nashville contemporaries seem more reluctant to do. The result is a rich and varied sounding album that also covers a range of tempos and different vibes.
Opening with the first single, ‘George Strait Songs’, Mize sets his stall out very clearly. This is an extremely infectious piece of Heartland Country Rock where strummed acoustics, edgy jangling electrics and subtle pedal steel provide the backdrop to a tale about life in a small mid-western town where folk “still love Jesus, by God, and know George Strait songs by heart.” It’s a brilliant track that rocks along and should be doing very well at Country radio.
This is followed by the excellent title track ‘Welcome to Prairieville’ which is a more mid-paced track where the lyric takes a look at the small town of Prairieville.
The lyric is quite superb, if a little melancholy, as it’s clear that the town has seen better days, but is still in the residents’ blood. Musically, there is a hint of the 1980s in the almost U2 style delayed electric guitars, but Mize’s lovely vocal and the subtle weeping steel brings you back to the Country element of the sound.
The 80s influences kick in big style on the delightful ‘River Road’ where there is an almost 38 Special or Eddie Money feel to the music, especially in the chorus where the delicate guitar and keyboard fills and pulsing bass simply scream ‘1980s pop-rock’. It’s a great track and could easily be a hit at radio.
‘Wine at the Church, Beer at the Bar’ has a much more modern Nashville Country sound, with a down-tuned funky guitar riff and cool slide guitar licks. It’s a fun, good-time track that oozes class.
The 80s make another welcome return on the brilliant ‘Follow Your Heart’ which is not dissimilar in feel to ‘River Road’, but with an absolutely colossal chorus!
This is followed up by the utterly stunning ‘I Need Mike’, which is the current single release and which has a video that could easily make grown men weep. It’s a dark tale of loss that echoes Springsteen’s darker and more reflective moments and the music accurately reflects the heartbreak in the lyrics, with clever use of weeping steel drenched in reverb and a fierce and gnarly guitar solo to accentuate things. It’s a standout track, which given the quality of everything else, says something!
The quality doesn’t dip either, as ‘If You Get Lucky’ brings back the 80s AOR/pop-rock influences with a pumping bassline and driving beat to match its big hooklines. This is followed by the slower-paced ‘Tell the Truth’ which has Mize singing over a delicately picked acoustic guitar.
The track is full of space and there are some lovely harmony vocals in the chorus of what is a super little modern Country ballad. ‘We Ain’t Broke’ has thunderous Stadium-Rock drums and a huge chorus, with loads of cool Country guitars before ‘I Still Miss You’ kicks in with jangling guitars and more of Mize’s delicious vocals.
Like many of the tracks on this album, in this one you get the feeling that all is not quite right in the town of Prairieville: that folk are struggling to get by and finding it hard to keep their heads above water, yet they somehow just keep going despite it all. Pretty much like life wherever in the world you might live, I guess!
The album ends with the gentle modern Country strains of ‘It’s About Time.’ What I like about this track (apart from the fact that it’s just a lovely song) is that it finishes the album on a more positive note, as though despite the hardships, loss and struggles in Prairieville, there’s something to keep going for. There is a delightful late 80s/early 90s sound to the jangly electric guitar solo on this, adding a little nostalgic sparkle to what is almost the perfect end to a brilliant album.
Logan Mize has hit the ball clean out of the park with this release. The combination of classic 80s Pop-Rock, AOR and Heartland Rock influences and modern and classic Country sounds/instrumentation give us an album that could appeal to a very broad range of listeners. Give it a whirl and immerse yourselves in the people, places and events in Prairieville – you’ll almost feel like you’re there!