Noteworthy Indie Music review of "Tightrope" by Byron William Mike Laureanno is a folk artist hailing from Fall River, MA. In May 2017 Mike won the Wildflower, TX songwriting contest and in May 2016, he was both a finalist in the Kerrville New Folk competition and a winner of the Woody Guthrie songwriting contest. Along with that, two of Mike’s songs have reached the number one spot on Neil Young’s “Living with War Today” website. Mike has released three albums to date: ‘Pushing Back Wintertime (2013)’, ‘Road Signs (2015)’ and his newest ‘Tightrope,’ released this year. The lineup on ‘Tightrope,’ is Mike’s brothers, Frank Laureanno on bass and Tom Laureanno on Cajon Drums joined by Cathy Clasper-Torch, Cello and Fiddle and Tom Duval, electric guitar. Mike sings lead vocals, acoustic guitar and piano. Tightrope, an 11-track album, was produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Mike Laureanno at his home studio in Providence, RI. The first song off of his new album is the title track, “Tightrope.” The song kicks off with gorgeous melodic guitar riffs/arpeggios accompanied by an up-tempo drum bass and steady bass line. The arrangement of the song is engaging and speaks volumes about Mike’s talent as a musician. As the first verse begins, Mike vocals come in displaying a crystal clear tone that allows his songwriting to shine as you are able to understand each and every word he sings. Laced throughout the song are acoustic guitar riffs, nice harmonies and beautiful strings. Inspired by the famous French high wire walker, Philippe Petit, who released a dove mid-air as a symbol of peace to an inspired crowd, “Tightrope” is a stand-out song about compromise and balance and rising above the crowds for peace. In the chorus Mike sings,“Humanity a symphony. Rise above religion and race. The give and take a tightrope makes. Meet in the middle in peace,”bringing the theme of peace to life with descriptive poetry.
Another very moving song on the album is “Brother Leonard” which is a tribute to the late Leonard Cohen who was one of the finest poets and songwriters of our time. The song opens with a solemn piano line accompanied by a finger-style guitar playing. The slower style of this song brings out a softer, shimmering quality in Mike’s voice. Throughout this ballad, Mike breezes through entrancing melodies with a simple and gorgeous arrangement. With lines like, “There’ll be caviar and an open bar when you pass through that door and enter the Tower of Song. A glass of Bordeaux, a Marlboro, You'll be coughing with Hank Williams till dawn,” this song encapsulates the essence of Leonard Cohen through a music experience that seems nostalgic. There is no doubt that Cohen would be pleased with this haunting and honest tribute that is filled with gratitude, respect, fine musicianship and delivered with an emotional performance. “Shine a Light on Washington” is another favorite. This political song has up-tempo energy that livens up the CD. As Mikes tells it, his 90- year old mother-in-law would sit at her desk and write letters to congress. She called her participation, “Shining a light on Washington.” With a great beat, this song kicks off with a unique sound as we are swept away with intricate acoustic guitar lines and electric bass. Ramped up with political commentary influenced by the recent women’s march in Washington, Mike sings“Hear the marchin' in Washington. A million women up in arms. Don't need opinion polls to know right from wrong. Or a choke hold to show whose strong.” “Shine a Light on Washington” truly shines a light with lyrics that go beneath the surface as Mike keenly observes our political landscape with bold lyrics and a catchy tune to back them up. Mike Laureanno’s songs offer story-telling based on his own raw, real world experiences enabling him to share personal messages from a place of depth and empathy. “Dig a Little Deeper” is about surviving hard times, overcoming hardship and gratitude. Mike’s grandfather was out of work in the great depression and was forever grateful when he landed a job working for the W.P.A. Mike reminisces about these times, sending a message of hope. In the first verse he sings,“When I think of my old granddad in the cotton mills as a boy. A twelve hour day at a lunch-pail wage in torn overalls.” He then follows up in the chorus by singing,“When times get tough, dig a little deeper. Never give up, dig a little deeper.” The chorus is catchy with the refrain “dig a little deeper” sung after each phrase inviting folks to sing-a-long and be uplifted. To say that the track to this song is tender is understated; it has a delicate texture with moving strings and Mike sings it with intense grace and humility as if he is singing directly to his grandparents bringing tears to the eyes.
Tightrope is a wonderful accomplishment that delivers songs that are raw yet polished, delicate yet powerful; there are songs that take a stand and songs that gently and delicately stand down to pay tribute. It is a rich album that tells stories full of emotion, grace and gratitude filled with keen observation as each song carries a personal aspect of Mike bringing you closer to him as an artist and making his music highly relatable.