Give Michael “Guitar Mikey” McMillan credit for doing his homework on the technical aspects of self-producing his latest release, Out Of The Box, and for gathering together a fine team of players and engineers to support the project. But what this album is lacking is a bit of discretion that an outside producer can give.
The album starts out strong with the acoustic-injected blues rocker “Back To You,” followed by the hot Garry Moore-like burner “That’s No Way,” and the second line infected “It’s A Sin,” all of which feature fantastic performances from “The Real Thing” band and the Hammer Head Horns, especially the blazing harmonica of Billy Gibson and fabulous piano and organ from Mark Yacovone. Then Mikey plays homage to Robert Johnson in pantomime on the acoustic delta blues “It’s Goin’ Down” and delivers on the Memphis styled “Livin’ in the Big Time.”
But the album begin to feel like it may have gone too far when he turns the Chicago blues tribute “Blues Head” into a comedy number of overt misogyny and drags the blues back to the man cave. At 15 tracks the album feels a bit long, and often McMillan’s breathy delivery becomes awkward as he begins to take on a faux southern accent. The title is meant as reference to his “out of the box” approach to the blues. as clearly stated in the blues meets tango mash-up on the title track. But someone should have been there to say enough is enough when he decided to add horns, strings and accordion on top of a blues band. Wow what a cacophony.