Mike Killeen: Record Release

Mike Killeen

Originally from Athens, Georgia and now calling nearby Decatur home, Mike Killeen has released five full-length albums and an EP—and shared the stage with alt-country luminary Jay Farrar, Grammy Award winners The Blind Boys of Alabama, and southern rock legends the Marshall Tucker Band. He counts Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Vic Chesnutt, and Uncle Tupelo among his formative influences.

Killeen’s most recent effort, “Ghost,” was produced by Ken Coomer (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo) at his Cartoon Moon Studios in Nashville and released in 2019 on Saturn 5 Records to worldwide distribution. “Ghost” features Killeen’s strongest set of songs to-date, and his collaboration with Coomer builds on his Americana roots, with a collection of tracks that straddles the lines between genres, including folk rock, pop rock, indie rock, and alternative rock. Killeen penned and contributed lead vocals for all nine songs, and played electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica, and piano. Coomer said of Killeen: “Mike Killeen can take you to that place, the place of a lost love, that yearning we all have for someone, or he can paint the picture of human loss, that deep line that runs between life and death.”

On “Ghost,” expert accompaniment from Joe Garcia on lead guitar, Ted Pecchio on bass, and Coomer on drums—as well the textural presence of keyboards, mellotron, mandocello, loops, and well-placed harmonies by Kristen Englenz and Nathan Beaver—give the album its hard-to-label, but easy-to-embrace vibe. The lead single, “She Called Me Last Night,” kicks off the album and points to Killeen’s active return to writing, performing, and recording new music after a long gestation, with the closing lyric, “If you believe in this thing, and all that it means, it will follow you wherever you will go.” Other highlights include “Siren Call,” “You Ain’t Settling Anymore,” and “Decatur Cemetery (Section 14).”.

Killeen’s immediately previous work, “Poverty is Real,” was also released on Saturn 5 Records. Produced by Will Robertson, the record is a more muscular presentation of Killeen’s songwriting than found previously, with crunchy electric guitars and raucous crash cymbals appearing throughout. BeAtlanta.com called Poverty is Real, a collection of “beautiful arrangements and meaningful lyrics.” The title track was included in Salvatore Alaimo’s documentary, “What is Philanthropy,” alongside songs by Patti Smith and Ziggy Marley.

The story goes that Englenz learned to read musical notes before she was able to read words, demonstrating her natural aptitude for music. Later, she went on to play piano, guitar, and French horn, and was awarded a scholarship to study music performance at the University of North Carolina Asheville. She has such a natural gift for melody and mimicry that she can summon birds to respond back to her voice. (She once even won an international bird-calling contest in 2009). Today, she is making her name as a performing singer, songwriter, and musician in the Southeast. Her soulful singing has a range and depth of feeling that has led many to compare her to vocal greats Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell. Kristen’s deeply felt songs carry layers of meaning, which peeled back, reveal a vulnerability and passion for emotional expression.

Kristen’s new album, The Extent of Play, recorded at studilaroche by Atlanta sound engineer Benjamin Price (Little Tybee, Hello Ocho, Faun and a Pan Flute) features her breathy voice and finger-picked guitar in a stripped down, live-to-tape setting. Tracks on the album are spun together with carefully layered lyrics that reflect the human condition and makes one feel what most people are too hesitant to openly express. Kristen’s sound is enhanced but not overpowered by the ethereal notes coming from guest musicians George Kotler-Wallace’s (Book of Colors) pedal steel, and subtle support from Ryan Donald’s (Little Tybee) bass.

“The Extent of Play has a genuinely appealing quality absent from nearly every other local release in this genre,” writes Jeff Clark of Stomp And Stammer. “There is a stirring intimacy to these performances that holds you in their grasp.”

Englenz’s debut music video for her original song “Bells” recreates her musical journey of personal expression through by using 1,175 photographs to create a stop-motion video. Clues to Englenz’s musical and geographic influences are meticulously woven into a Abelardo Morell-like narrative. “Bells” is about the constant effort to find, understand, and claim oneself,”explains Kristen. “I wanted the video to represent a modern version of Richard Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, which you should never ask me to spell, but it means a piece which synthesizes all the arts. In this case it’s a video containing original photography, lyrics and music.”

Englenz has appeared at Jack of the Wood, UNC Asheville, and Altamont Brewing Co. in Asheville, NC; The Red Light Café, Mammal Gallery, Eddie’s Attic, and The Red Clay Theatre in Atlanta,GA; New Earth Music Hall, and the Go Bar in Athens, GA. She has opened for Americana artists Hannah Aldridge, Richard Buckner, and Lara Ruggles. Her original track “Georgia Peach” recently debuted on 98.1 FM the River, Asheville’s adult alternative station.

“Kristen is a sweet, kind, and talented young woman; and those qualities come through in spades in her music. You’ll leave her show mellow, thoughtful, and entertained, ” comments Mark Van Allen (Zac Brown Band, Govt Mule, Clay Cook), pedal steel aficionado, recording engineer and producer of the audio recording of “Bells”.

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