Review: Mike Lewis “Do Watcha Gotta Do”

Mike Lewis “Do Watcha Gotta Do”

07 Apr, 2011 Heath Andrews

The fusion of country, rock, and pop music is nothing new to the music industry.  In that respect, Mike Lewis finds himself within a sea of similar artists.  That being said, he also makes a unique name for himself through remarkable song craft.  On his 2011 album, Do Whathca Gotta Do, Lewis throws down eight, infectious, impeccably performed songs with enthusiasm and vigor.

Lewis leads off with the album’s longest piece, “Surfin’ Killed The Evening News,” and it’s an excellent way to begin.  “Surfin…” quickly shows much of what Lewis has to offer as an artist.  Beginning with a persistent, toe-tapping drumbeat and gentle keyboards, Lewis then starts to sing in a rich, deep, melodic voice.  His lyric wryly uses television viewing habits as a metaphor for what media obsession has done to society.  The verses are marked by compelling backing keyboards, but the point of the song is hammered home with an intensely catchy chorus that’s just one hook after another.

Lewis follows this song up with another fantastic piece, “Hold On.”  Just like the song before it, the chorus is a gigantic hook, complete with its harmony vocals and easily singable, lines like, “Oh no, that ain’t the way it goes/Oh no, this ain’t no TV show…,” and is anchored by a snarling guitar riff that opens up into some fantastic soloing as the track nears its end.  With this and “Surfin…,” Lewis is able to open with a one-two punch that brings the listener in quickly to his pop/country sound.

After that, and the also well constructed, “Get-By Boulevard,” the tempo is slowed a bit with “Then, There Was You.”  Essentially functioning as the album’s requisite ballad, the lyrical subject of a girl changing a man’s perspective on life isn’t new by any means, but Lewis sings it with great affection.  More over, he also delivers his words on top of a streamlined arrangement, which allows the heartfelt vocal to occupy more acoustic space in the mix.  In the back there’s a calm, nearly mournful guitar and piano, but it’s the singing from Lewis that makes the track so powerful.

“On My Knees” throws it back into a harder direction with this smooth rocker of a song.  Though it may sound redundant at this point, the hooks continue to come fast and hard with more gutsy guitar lines played courtesy of Kelly Back, who also delivers a tight solo about midway through the song.  Just like the number itself, the solo packs a wallop and lasts only long enough to stun before leading the song into a piano-backed breakdown.  It’s kind of subtle, but beneath the main riff is a very atmospheric, B-3 Hammond Organ part played by John Jarvis.  While it doesn’t seem like much, it adds a great deal of warmth and helps stress the feelings Lewis carries in his voice about being brought to his knees by the object of his affection.

The album’s title track is notable for the interplay between Back’s guitar and the piano work from Mike Rojas.  For every lick that Back fires off, Rojas throws in a flourish that helps to carry the song’s melody and fill out the arrangement overall.  Drummer Shawn Fichter gives a particularly strong performance, snapping off crisp drum fills within his driving rhythm.  And of course, Lewis again builds a chorus around a strong hook, singing how sometimes he has to, “Do what, do Watcha gotta do now, to find a way to make it back to you.”

By the time Do Watcha Gotta Do ends with the uptempo, keyboard driven, “Freedom,” it hardly seems like it began.  Not one of Mike Lewis’ songs over stay their welcome, giving it the perfect sense of satisfaction while leaving listeners wanting more and more.  Though the album isn’t very long to begin with, every song flows with such energy and drive that even if all the songs were four to five minutes long, they’d still whistle by like the three-minute masterpieces they are.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mike Lewis understands what a hook is and delivers more of them on one disc than some artists do in years.  In short, this is the type of album with the level of performance, songwriting, and enjoyment that can carry it into the hands of every self-respecting country and rock fan.

Review by Heath Andrews
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)