“Storyline” By Mike Struwin

Mike Struwin, a songwriter to watch.

Every so often I come across a CD with a unique sound built out of layer upon layer of lovingly crafted sonic nuance. The impressive “Storyline” by talented singer-songwriter Mike Struwin is just such a CD. No newbie to the music game, Struwin released his first CD at age 17. Since then he has released 7 albums, performed in several bands, and learned and lived in such musical hot spots as Portland, OR and Kalamazoo, MI. “Storyline” reflects the experiences of a well lived musical life and combines them with the passion and enthusiasm of a young artist rapidly coming into his own.

There is a unique artistic vision on this CD that is apparent in the way these songs were constructed. The songs on “Storyline” cover a lot of territory, both musically and lyrically. Songs of love, life, loss, and letting go are all intertwined into unique musical paintings that draw from roots, folk, alt country, and rock. A stable of talented musicians contributed a wide range of instrumental flavors to the rich tapestry of this album. Lap steel, horns, organ, piano, percussion, harmonica, and mandolin accompany Struwin’s vocals and guitar playing. The lush instrumentation not only serves the music but also takes it to another level completely. The exceptional production from Struwin, Lee Howard, Daniel Fretto, and Demetrius Keller really shines here. They have brought these songs to life in a way that reminded me of some of the more musically rich productions of John Mellencamp, Paul Westerberg, or Nick Drake. Struwin has a unique voice and doesn’t particularly sound like any of these artists, but the ability he shares with them to merge song crafting, musical collaboration, and the possibilities of the recording studio is a rare gift worthy of high praise.

This album is likely to have resonance with anyone who has spent quality time in South West Michigan. Lake Michigan, the Dunes, and even Kalamazoo are all celebrated here. It was nice to hear so many experiences I could relate to put into song form. At times the local focus feels almost provincial, yet this is a big part of the albums charm for those who have been there. This is not a perfect album. Some of the narratives meander at times but there are plenty of well-written songs with meaningful lyrics to make up for it. In the end it was really nice to hear a genuine “recording artist” make an album that really works as an album. In a world with a demographic driven corporate owned music industry, it is harder to find them these days. Struwin has really stepped out from the crowd on “Storyline”. With this album he has proved he is a gifted songwriter with a unique artistic vision and a ton of promise.

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