Photos by April Beeckman
Review by Pete Karoly

Brett Mitchell poses an interesting question on the opening cut of his album Small House. In a song titled "Born Too Late," he laments the fact that he was not there along with the others at Sun Studios when this thing called rock and roll was launched in earnest. "I could have been Elvis," he says. My question to him is, Presley or Costello, because I think you could be either or both.

Mitchell is a talent out of Midland and I would go so far as to say a formidable talent. The buzz on the web is that "Born Too Late" is in the running for some sort of award, but I think that could be said for just about all of the cuts on this album. There is no disputing that he opens with a winner, but Mitchell goes through a variety of self-penned songs that more than hold their own both musically and lyrically.

What I find intriguing about this album is that each cut is different in style while maintaining an accessibility that is hard to beat. For instance, the second cut is the title track and, while Mitchell sings about sitting in a small house letting all his feelings out, I get visions of a modern version of the Beach Boys' "In My Room." The difference is that Mitchell is there of his own accord and totally content. "Don't Worry About Me" is reggaeish with a Midwestern mentality. My brother used to call this kind of music Rastabilly with an emphasis on the rasta. You still get the idea.

"New Disease" has a smart pop sound reminiscent of D.L. Byron, and I know just what disease this boy has. It's the rockin' pneumonia and the boogie woogie flu. There's no vaccine for it, and nobody I know wants to be cured.

Mitchell just seems to be having fun making his music and, I have to admit, I had fun listening to it. From "OCD" (a harpsichord AND a sousaphone?) to "Neighbors" (a veggie shaker and two lap drums!) this album is full of pleasant surprises and lots of smiles. Just for the record, the last lap drum I remember is on Buddy Holly's "Everyday" and, if it's good enough for Buddy Holly, then it's good enough for me.

Mitchell is backed by the giant GHOST, which is made up of Tim Puckett on keyboards and guitar, Mike Cramton on drums, and Bill Hall on, no kidding, bass, do-rag and Frisbee. Whatever works for you, keep doing it because this works for me.

Going back to the first track, Mitchell complains that he could have been great but he was born too late. I think he was born at just the right time and, according to Shakespeare, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. With the right amount of luck, Brett Mitchell and the giant GHOST just might have all three.

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© Pete Karoly, 2010