The Mike Fleming Special, Selftitled
Jo Joe Records, 2000

Hailing from Eureka Springs, Arkansas, The Mike Fleming Special has made a name for themselves on the road, recruiting legions of fans in places like Chicago, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Not simply a neo-rockabllly outfit, the band combines impressive songwriting, silly stories, and diverse styles of American music into an exciting and distinctly rockin’ sound.

While the songs are hot and the band is tight, fans are also impressed by C.J. Kringle’s washtub bass. One of the few true masters of the instrument, Kringle often spends his post-show time giving performance and construction tips to fascinated crowd members. Once, in Huntington Beach, CA, an entire hot-rod club demanded a lesson in bass-building.

The backbone of the band’s performances is Istvan Balazs and his multi-instrumental wizardry. Although he always wants to bring more drums on tour than the band will allow, Balazs constantly drops jaws with his skills on the washboard, maraca, kazoo, and antique car horn, as well as the good old gold-sparkle drum kit.

Mike Fleming, of course, still lives on top of a mountain in Arkansas. In between tours, he whiles away the sultry evenings practicing his guitar and impressing the local wildlife with new licks.

I guess this CD is what they call "selftitled", because there is no other title than "The Mike Fleming Special" on the cover, a cartoon designed by C.J. Kringle, showing the "band" on a fiery stage. It's kind of a short CD (only 17 minutes), so I guess these days that would be an EP rather than a CD. The first track "City Of Gold" is a fast paced rockabilly track, with Mike doing some great licks on (electric) guitar and some real nice plucking by Kringle on his washtub bass. The second song follows the same cart-rut, "When It Rains, It Pours" is another (selfpenned) authentic rockabilly track, but with the third track things change dramaticly. "Life Is Like A River" is Mike (and Mike only) on acoustic guitar and whistling to the birds (or the wildlife on his mountain). This is a long way from rockabilly and therefor I'm not in a position to judge the song, but I don't think it "fits in".

"So Long Whiskey, I'm Going Back To Gin", luckily, is rockabilly again, with some folk influences, or is it just the acoustic guitar in the back that makes me think so. Anyway, the song rocks. Track 5 is an odd number again, "From Russia With Love" is an acoustic song, this time with vocals and not even close to rockabilly. On track 6 the band proves they can really rock again, "On Your Mind" is another fast paced rockabilly song, with both electric and acoustic guitars and a fat greasy slapping bass. The last track, "Heading For Trouble", is also a rockabilly track, one with a change of pace and some jazzy influences. Surprise, suprise, there is another song hidden behind the 7th track, one which is not listed on the cover. The title might be something like "When The Rain Comes" and it's an acoustic ensemble, to keep the wildlife happy I guess.

All in all, it's a strange compilation. I really like the rockabilly tracks and I'll let you decide on the acoustic stuff. One thing's for sure, I don't think anyone else has tried a combination like this before, so it's a bit experimental to say the least. You can listen to some real-audio samples on Mike's website. Just give it a try..

The Mike Fleming Special is:
Mike Fleming - guitars and voice
C.J. Kringle - washtub bass
Istvan Balazs
- drums

Contact information:
Mike Fleming Special
239 Turpentine Creek Lane
Eureka Springs, AR 72632
Phone: +1-501-253-5841


Review by The BlackCat, 2000
Additional information by The Mike Fleming Special