Singer-songwriter Mike Aiken announces a June 8 release date for his new CD, Wayward Troubadour, on Northwind Records. In addition to his vocals and stellar guitar work, the band that Aiken put together for Wayward Troubadour included friends David Roe on bass (Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash), Kenny Vaughan on electric and acoustic guitars (Marty Stuart), and guest writers/ vocalists Henry Paul (Outlaws, Blackhawk, Henry Paul Band) and Chris P James (Burrito Brothers). Other musicians on the sessions are Aiken’s wife, Amy - vocals, rubboard, African gourd, congas, tambourine and assorted noisemakers; Tom Hurst – drums; Michael Webb - Hammond B3 organ; Ben Probus – fiddle; Skip DeRupa - guiro, jaw harp; Randall Thomas - background vocals; and Tim Buppert - guest vocals.
Aiken’s conceptualized project is the anticipated follow-up to his Grammy-nominated Captains & Cowboys (produced by Dan Baird of the Georgia Satellites). The Western Swing-tinged lead-off track, “Everything Changed,’ sets the tone for what is to follow on the 11-song sonic journey Aiken has created, abound with plenty of tales of hope and despair, trouble and charm.
“I had a very clear sound in my head for this album; one I’ve always wanted to capture, and I was not going to settle for less,” Aiken says. “At this point in my career, I don’t have time for folks who don’t believe in the music 110%. These were the folks I wanted to write, record and perform with.”
Of the eight original songs on Wayward Troubadour, six are co-writes. “Two Lane Highway” was penned with Henry Paul, who also lent his talents to mandolin and vocals on this timeless, sweet track. “Nashville Skyline,” written with Chris P James, covers the troubadour’s view of Nashville as seen from any highway leading into town. Mike included two very different songs he wrote with Paul Jefferson, the cookin’, Bob Wills-esque, “Everything Changed,” and the tense song about not being judgmental, “Hard Working Working Girl.” Longtime friend and co-writer, Tim Buppert and Mike created the more tongue-in-cheek offerings with “Hangover Helper” and the Gypsy Jazz-flavored, “A Little Lazy In Your Life.” The three covers were chosen for their content and the songwriters, rather than audience familiarity: “Real Mean Dog” (Robbin Thompson, Gregg Wetzel) for Robbin, longtime friend, fellow sailor and beloved songwriter/performer; “Dead Man Runs Before He Walks” (Mark Collie, Shawn Camp) for an interesting twist on a somber story; and Penelope (Christopher Hynes) for its reminder that the grass is not always greener elsewhere. The self-penned songs “Travelin’ Bone” and “Chesapeake” give an autobiographical peek into Mike Aiken.
“Chesapeake,” the album’s closing track, is a re-recorded version of a song Mike wrote a number of years ago that was picked in 2011 by Sports Illustrated for their list of “All-Time Top 40 Sports Songs.” They had this to say about it back then: “There are hundreds of sailing shanties, Christopher Cross's ‘Sailing’ and Jimmy Buffett's ‘Take It Back’ (the best and perhaps only America's Cup rooting song). But nobody sings about the nautical life better than Aiken. He spends much of the year aboard a 42-foot cutter near Chesapeake, Va., and this simple ode to being on the water explains the appeal.”
Advance reviews of Wayward Troubadour are over-the-top. “Love the album; it's his best yet! Mike Aiken's gift is writing songs about the endless highway. Wayward Troubadour is his most bluesy and rootsiest to date, with his first-rate band and spot-on harmonies with his wife, Amy. Ideal music for a road trip!” - Paul Shugrue, host, “Out of the Box” – NPR Station WHRO-FM, Norfolk, Virginia