“Knives in Gunfights,” by Mike Herz, describes two people at a crossroads. Do they continue an unwinnable struggle, throwing knives in a gunfight, or do they go all in? With the latter choice being either complete commitment or complete separation.
Mike Herz negotiates the delicate trick of being both poetic and deeply personal. Unlike, say, Bob Dylan. I love Dylan’s imagery, the word pictures he paints, but I often have no idea what he’s talking about, much less the cognizance to relate his paintings to my own experiences. Mike has the ability, rare among singer-songwriters, to choose beautiful phrases that describe unbeautiful and instantly recognizable spiritual trials.
I’ve been walking a steep path and pushing a boulder
With both an angel and a chip on my shoulder
Thinking about talking to God but I don’t have the nerve
“Knives in Gunfights” is from the new album, Live in NYC, set for release April 20. The 13-track LP was recorded March 16, Mike’s birthday, with a full band at the Rockwood Music Hall in (you guessed it) New York City. Full disclosure: we attended the show and were lucky to get seats on the front row. You can hear the Raccoonette’s contribution to the soundtrack at the seventeen-second mark. “Knives in Gunfights” is our second Song of the Day from the concert. We previously featured “The Chain,” with a video by the Raccoonette.
I first heard the music of Mike Herz in 2013, when I reviewed his first album, Overgrown. Back then, his words alone were worth the price of admission. Since then, his musicianship, his melodies, and especially his singing, have improved greatly. Mike told me that, as far as singing goes, he was a “late bloomer” who “found his sweet spot.” I get the sense that finding that sweet spot entailed many, many hours alone with his guitar. Until now Mike has been primarily a solo performer. With the addition of a band to provide a fuller sound, Mike’s sweet spot has become larger and sweeter.
Mike’s lyrical abilities, also, have transformed in the five years I have known him. Overgrown was about Mike’s own conflicts and choices. While that is still the case with Mike’s new songs, he is now able to present them with words that make them resonate within the lives of the individual listeners. He is now singing, not just about himself, but about us.
Live in NYC can be pre-ordered on Mike Herz’ Bandcamp page. “Knives in Gunfights” and a second song, “Some Fires,” can be downloaded today. Be sure to visit his website, and follow him on Facebook, and Twitter.