Mike Runnels - The Tender Years
Review By: George
Peden, CSO Staff Journalist
spent my first 18 years in Beaumont, Texas. That gives me the
right to play country music, and it’s where I first learned what
makes for the best country music.” Mike Runnels bio.
All the publicity shots show him as a shy, retiring brooder. .
The hat dips low, as if to hide the face, while the dark
glasses, reminiscent of another Texan, Roy Orbison, conceal the
eyes. It’s all mysterious. But then, maybe it’s not. Mike
Runnels isn’t trying to win with a Nashville image; rather his
calling card is his music.
Back onto the shelves with his fifth CD, the one-time punk
rocker has delivered, again, with a snappy and customary mix,
The Tender Years. Again, he’s written all the songs. Again, he’s
kept it simple with basic instrumentation of drums, piano,
guitar and steel. And, again, it all works.
“I see myself and my art as a tribute to the legendary artists
of country music,” says Runnels. “There are a lot of people who
think they can copy that sound and they get close. But I would
never really attempt to do that. I’m influenced by them and live
in their shadows. And I do my little part to keep this sound
And that little part is summed up easily. What’s on offer here
is pure country. Runnels is, as he’s shown across his growing
catalogue, not in need of studio magic with countless
overdubbing, harmony choirs and production padding; Mike Runnels
delivers honest, clean and tamper-free country. It’s not for
everyone. But if you like your music with traditional leanings,
where the songs stand strong and the intent is to make the mind
think and the heart respond, this is for you.
The Tender Years, out now on Lucky Penny Records, opens the
ten-track set with “Cheatin’ Side Of Town”. Against an edgy
twang, Runnels pines while sharing the dark woe of a leavin’
love that’s found willing arms and changed circumstances
Runnels, branded as unique by many reviewers and global radio
programmers, isn’t afraid to show his battered heart on his
cowboy shirt sleeve – real country brings real emotion and mood,
a listen to this album shows this Austin local knows how to
craft a tune that leaves you changed and charged…and sad.
That’s part of the charm here. Runnels juices, pushes and pulls
the needed responses. His voice, etched in misery, pain and loss
defines what’s great about country music. The voice is a
heartache waiting to happen. The lightly tinkered piano on “Last
Date”, a stood-up weeper of shattered hopes and lost romance is
a tale only the lonely and the jilted will fully understand.
But while Runnels stamps his mark on heartbreak, the album comes
with tuneful hope. “Now You Know” tells it simply: if you love
someone, don’t waste time and opportunity – tell them.
Steady streams continue with the melodic and trusting “Just Say
So Baby”. An accordion-laced nod to one-sided uncertainty of
watching couples has Runnels second-guessing on “I Love You
More”. She’s with him but in the words of the song, he loves her
more. Again, Runnels shows his lyrical pen comes dipped in the
experiences of life.
Mike Runnels has been kicking around the country traps of Texas
for many years. Too many not to get wider acclaim. With each
album, he proves his worth as a writer and singer of common
understandings, all fired with a country music passion.
Do yourself the favor. Check him out.