Not many "new" artists release their first album when they are in their 40s, only to take 14 years to release their next two, but so it is with Jim Mize. This Arkansas singer-songwriter didn't even enter a recording studio until he was in his late 30s, but that didn't stop him from writing and amassing a serious collection of songs in the process. Now, at age 57, he has graced the music world with his third album, simply titled Jim Mize.
Mize's day job is that of an insurance adjuster, traveling the American South and West. He's seen his fair share of tragedies, especially in the aftermath of natural disasters such as Hurricane Andrew, but he has also seen a determination in the people he has encountered. Mize's experiences color these songs, and his world-weary voice -- at times recalling Mark Knopfler, Bob Dylan or Eric Clapton -- fits them perfectly.
The album kicks off with the dreamy blues of "Rabbit Hole." Mize likens falling in love to falling into a rabbit hole, delivering a passionate vocal in the process. Mize's guitar playing punctuates this intense opening track throughout, pushing his instrument without sounding contrived. The driving country rock of "I Won't Come Back Again" follows. Al Gambale adds organ to the track, giving it a classic sound as Mize shows his versatility in multiple genres.
Mize duets with Kate Taylor on "This Moment With You." The song is a gentle, mostly acoustic ballad that showcases his romantic side. Taylor's pretty voice provides a stark contrast to Mize's rough vocal textures and the electric guitar present accents the song nicely.
That same romantic spirit permeates "Drunk Moon Falling," a mid-tempo number that would fit neatly into any recent Bruce Springsteen album. Mize offers a strong vocal and tasteful lead playing on this standout track. Along those lines is the harder rocking "Eye To Eye." Mize makes the most of his sparse note choices in the song's solo, offering a unique listening experience. Less successful is "Bleed," a plodding, bluesy track that never really develops. Still, there is much more good than bad on this record and Mize is a strong writer with excellent pop sense.
Mize's self-titled album shows off not only his considerable songwriting skills, but also a keen eye for observation. The characters in his songs could be any one of us, and that makes the songs resonate even more. Let's hope he doesn't wait seven years for the next record.