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Mike Dekle - Tributes
Review By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist

Smoke-filled barrooms where the lights are always dim, people telling me to sing my songs again, I see overrun ashtrays and overturned beer, but I know what they’re wanting to hear…I’d be lost without music, lost in the dark, take away my songs and you might as well just take my heart… “–Tributes (Mike Dekle) “Lost Without Music”.

Mike Dekle has to be one of the most radio-overlooked acts in country music. Not that he has cause for sleepless nights and worry. His bank balance grows nicely thank you from a steady stream of royalty checks. He’s penned and co written for the best of them – Tracy Byrd, Kenny Rogers, Joe Nichols and John Berry among others. All proof, if needed, that this Georgia-based singer and songwriter knows how to deliver the goods. Now on the shelves with his fifth album, Tributes (Parlay Records), the 14 mainly co written tracks show, again, just what modern radio is missing.

Dekle, if you are looking for an image, is more Tom T. Hall than Toby Keith; he is more about the song than the image; he’s a rich, mellow and narrative driven lyricist, one who obviously thinks deeply before the ink hits the chord sheet. In his world, one would suspect, there are no dedicated PR people rushing him to TV shoots, fluffing out the cowboy shirt and waiting to chauffer him to the next Meet and Greet. Dekle comes laid back, easy in the knowledge that his words, his songs, are his public image; the rest is the staple of wannabees with something to prove.

And, in the case of this singer who honed his craft by singing in coffee houses in the early sixties, there’s nothing to prove. The guy has a clear and melodic timbre in his voice. He sings and shares understood meanings that touch us all. His writing is concise, picture perfect insights to life, love, family, and the tapestry that borders it.

When he sings of the plight of the blue-collar worker (“Ballad Of The Working Man”), his viewpoint isn’t squinted or lame. With crafted skill he nods with due and universal regard: The worker is the backbone to overall prosperity, often wrestling odds and circumstances that tax in more ways than the obvious.

All good writers have their influences. Mike Dekle honors a legend on “Ode To Bob Dylan”. The homage is complete with an easy harmonica as a backdrop on a tune hailing Mr Tamborine Man as one of the best, if not greatest, songwriters of modern times.

While music might be a pervasive interest, “Miss Jones” was more than a passing infatuation to young Mike Dekle. The song, simple and direct, powers with its message that respects the presence and quality of our teachers. “Them Boys”, likewise, is a view prodding the memory. Telling of the characteristic behavior of boys in groups, the tune is a flashback to how we were – and how lucky we were that we never enjoyed capture.

Just like “Rub –A –Bubba – a sneer of sorts to the grooming of the modern male -- to the word play of “Norma Lee (Normally), to the honest hurt of “Heartache Can Swim”, a tale proving a stiff drink doesn’t ease pain, Dekle crafts words, melodies and emotion that stamp this album as nothing less than, as one of the tunes suggests, a keeper (That’s A Keeper”).

This is quality. This is astute and keen songwriting. This album deserves hearing. It’s an album that shines in the glow of a notable tunesmith, someone who doesn’t hammer the tunes into some Top 40 gone and forgotten hit, rather the work is timely, honest and value driven.

On an album where every track is a standout, the tune enjoying my most plays is “The Old Man”. Again, simplicity and substance make the best music. The ballad laments over the actions of a father, one who is not smart enough, wise enough to know what is right and needed in the life of a 17-year -old kid. The tune ends with what most of us eventually learn –that is, as we get older, our parents get smarter.

The album is out now.

As a fitting tribute to the aptly named album, I rate this two thumbs up. Get it and find out just what modern radio is missing.


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