CD Review by Wildy Haskell ...5 STARS (5 out of 5)
Artist: Mike McCarroll
Album: Honky Tonk Dreams

Mike McCarroll was indoctrinated into music at an early age, dancing around the kitchen with his mom to Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up” as a toddler. It wasn’t until enlisting in the army during the Vietnam War that McCarroll picked up a guitar and began to have a sense he could create music. In the 1960’s and 70’s it was rock n roll that lit McCarroll’s lamp. By the late 1970’s McCarroll had made the jump to southern rock, and in the 1980’s was reborn of country music. The birth of the alternative country movement awoke something in McCarroll that had been there all along. He began to write country/rock tunes for his own enjoyment, and by 2008 he had released his debut album, the critically acclaimed At The Crossroads. McCarroll returned in 2010 with Honky Tonk Dreams, refining his outlaw country sound and putting appealing distance between himself and the commercial country pack.

Honky Tonk Dreams opens with “Cash Crop,” a low key southern country-rock tune that explores the difficulties faced by small time farmers and the lengths they must at times go through to survive. The farm’s new lifeblood grows in line between the rows of corn. McCarroll sounds like a cross between Paul Gross (Due South, Men With Brooms) and Garth Brooks on “The Devil In The Mirror” while exploring the dark, unknown side of human nature. “Honky Tonk Dream” finds McCarroll channeling the spirit of Jerry Reed in a good-time tune that looks forward to the weekend as a way to get through the week. “I Had It All” is a song of heartbreak, lamenting a love lost and the fact that he let her slip away.

“If The Devil Brought You Roses” is a stellar mix of country, rock and blues. McCarroll, in character as a less-than-ideal man, asks for another chance, or at least one more roll in the hay. This mid-tempo creation is as catchy as anything you’ll hear on country radio, but the level of personality and commitment in the performance offered here is striking. This song will stick with you. “It’s All About You” is a kiss off, country style. The title takes on a double meaning in a tongue-in-cheek turn that’s highly entertaining and fun. “Merle Haggard Jack Daniels & Me” is all about drinking, classic country music, and the sort of brotherly commiseration that can only occur at your neighborhood bar.

McCarroll stands up for Indie artists everywhere on “Pop-Style Cookie-Cutter Formula,” informing pop/country music executives what they can do with the songs they want him to play. The honky-tonk arrangement is laced with the rebellious feel of early rock n roll. “Southern Pride” is an ode to southern rock and some of its greatest purveyors. McCarroll takes another shot at the music industry here, lamenting labels’ determination to essentially ignore a market for which there is still significant interest. Along the way McCarroll references some of his own influences, including The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Charlie Daniels Band, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section. “Waitin’” is a bit of light-hearted, mid-tempo country fun. “Waitin’ On The Whiskey To Work” takes a slightly darker turn about drowning your sorrows. This isn’t a light drinking tune; it’s a serious, all hands on deck get drunk and forget song. “What You Gonna Do” finds McCarroll back in the honky-tonk, leaning dangerously close to early rock n roll with a musical blend of Garth Brooks, Hank Jr. and Jerry Lee Lewis. This is a potential country hit, being the most commercial tune on the album without the air of trying to be.

Mike McCarroll takes a lifetime of musical influences and channels it through his own quintessence to create a sound that is simultaneously modern and classic. Picking up the mantle from gentlemen such as Hank Williams Jr. and Garth Brooks, Mike McCarroll does his own thing, his way. He has a way of blending intelligent lyrics, the irreverent spirit of rock and roll and first class musicianship into songs that are eminently listenable and call you back again and again. McCarroll’s attitude toward the pop/country ways of Nashville virtually assures that Honky Tonk Dreams probably won’t get the airplay or national attention it deserves, but is a fine example of the sort of great music that happens on the fringes of Nashville once the bills have been paid. Honky Tonk Dreams is one of the finest country albums to surface in 2010.

Review by Wildy Haskell
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
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CD Review by Sarah Whited / Country Music Reviewer
Artist: Mike McCarroll
Album: Honky Tonk Dreams

Mike McCarroll’s outlaw alternative country is two-stepping, hard drinking, wild and wooly bonfire music. His songwriting skill is clearly evident on Honky Tonk Dreams, his second independent release. All the songs are characterized by strong hooks and pointed lyrics that steer clear of cliché.
McCarroll’s Southern rock roots shine through on roaring tunes like “Waiting on the Whiskey to Work,” while his love for the blues is reflected in the lyrics of “It’s All About You.” Honky-tonk piano, crying slide guitar, sassy distortion solos, and swinging fiddle lines characterize this album. While many alternative country artists try to bridge the gap between genres, McCarroll has run straight back to his good old boy roots. There is no mistaking the twanging Southern accent, Merle Haggard-esque instrumentation, and hard-drinking/conservative dichotomy that characterizes the Bible Belt. Song themes reflect McCarroll’s personal convictions of independence, rebellion against social standards, hard work, and having a good time.

Due to his long history with the country music scene, McCarroll has pulled together some of the best talent in the industry, and it shows. Each instrument is played masterfully and with flair. The production of this album gives the feel of a live performance, particularly the mixing of the drum tracks, while retaining the high quality of a studio album. This gives listeners a feeling of authenticity that is important to the Southern community while still having the clarity that is required for radio play. McCarroll’s deep vocals slide between notes with a Tennessee drawl. Despite the slightly intoxicated feel to his accent, McCarroll hits the center of each note before sliding to the next, like a human steel guitar. His rich tone evokes the image of a muscular, booted man with a quad-cab truck and well-oiled 20 gauge. Women and booze are the main themes of this album; that’s about as country as one can get.

The album kicks off with the rip-roaring tune “Waiting on the Whiskey to Work.” Dualing guitar and fiddle lines introduce this drinking-man’s theme song. Whiskey enthusiasts will appreciate hearing the name of their favorite brand of poison, and brokenhearted men will identify with the theme of drowning one’s sorrows in a bottle. McCarroll’s vocals are harmonized on the chorus, a standard country-music device that helps the hook stick clearly in one’s mind. This rollicking bar tune would provide a great soundtrack to dancing, drinking, or fighting. “It’s All About You,” bemoans his relationship with a woman who takes everything and gives nothing. This song is pure Texas Two-Step county fair material. Its upbeat air and statement-answer vocal-fiddle lines encourage the listener to sway and sashay. The cute chorus easily sticks in one’s mind.

“Waitin’” is arguably the weakest track on the album. Despite the original lyrics of the rest of this album, this tune feels like filler and doesn’t convey the energy or cocky-strong feel of the rest of Honky Tonk Dreams. The title track is appropriately named and features the crying steel guitar that the lyrics describe. McCarroll’s personal dream of being a traveling country musician is the theme of this selection, as well as the entire album. His play on the words “Board room” (bored room) will appeal to any workingman who has dreamt of trading fluorescent lights and cubicles for a stage and bar. This kind of true representation of one’s inner dreams is the type of unadulterated truth McCarroll aims for.“Southern Pride” kicks off with a banjo solo and features lyrics aimed at the heart of the South.

All in all, this good old boy romp has lots of energy and is well suited to its target audience. It is well produced and features great melodies, fun instrumentation, and memorable lyrics.

Review by Sarah Whited - January 21, 2010
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

CD Review of Honky Tonk Dreams by Mike McCarroll
Reviewed by Vinny “Bond” Marini

In the last ten to twenty years, country music has become something other than the Grand Ole Opry country of yore. The influences of rock and blues has seeped into the genre and given rise to the success of artists like Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, and the Dixie Chicks. On Honky Tonk Dreams Mike McCarroll takes his background in rock, blues and country and concentrates it on his own “outlaw country sound.” On this album of twelve songs, all but five are written by Mr. McCarroll. The remainder includes three co-written by Kim Williams who is responsible for songs like “Three Wooden Crosses” (Randy Travis) and “Ain’t Going Down Til The Sun Comes Up (Garth Brooks). The songs run the usual gamut of the usual country topics including whiskey, love won and lost, and even Merle Haggard. McCarroll’s songwriting fits right into the mold and his delivery is straight ahead in that country story-telling motif.

The album opens with “Waiting On The Whiskey To Work,” which is pure country rock. Fiddles, a strong bass line, and a thudding drum back beat accompany McCarroll’s tale of “if you want to stop thinking, you gotta start drinking.” He then succeeds in naming a number of whiskey brands as he drinks to forget “that woman walking round in my head, her high heels are stepping on every nerve in my brain.” “It’s All About You” is another story of giving everything and getting nothing back from his woman. The guitar work behind McCarroll’s vocals accentuates his tale of woe, with the rest of the band holding him up throughout.

“I Had It All” tells the story of love had and lost and McCarroll sings of having “your sweet caress before the fall and I had your love, I had it all.” The story is of a man who lost it all due to his own failings once again. Mike Robertson is a talented guitar player in the band and also wrote the song “Merle Haggard, Jack Daniels and Me.” A tale of a broken hearted man sitting at a bar contemplating his fate as “tonight I’ll be drinking, tomorrow I’ll be thinking about Merle Haggard, Jack Daniels and Me.” There is a solid fiddle break followed by an equally solid pedal-steel break. When you think the song has ended, the band comes in and scoot-boogies it for another minute or so and we are given a juke joint piano ending. It would have been interesting to hear what happened in the studio after the song fades; perhaps there was some fine music they left out there.

“Pop Style Cookie-Cutter Formula Country Song” might be biographical as the singer is invited to meet with some record executives because “you got a sound we can sell and we want to offer you a deal,” but what they really wanted was to make him sing…well, you know…like the title of the song says. The first half of the song is spoken until you get to the chorus and then it breaks into song. We then move back and forth between spoken word and singing. “Southern Pride” opens with the first stanza of “Oh! Susanna” on the banjo and then turns into a southern rock boogie. This is the typical “I love the South and the rest of the country is not worth it” song. References to Free Bird, Sweet Home Alabama, the Allman Brothers CBD and others are scattered throughout the song as a tribute to these greats of southern rock music.

Musically, the album has some top rate talent playing on it, including some members of Travis Tritt’s band joining in. The music is solid throughout and would bring the crowd in the bar to their feet to dance the night away. As far as country-rock goes, Mike McCarroll has talent as a songwriter, though his subject matter does not have much variety. His vocals are as good as or better than many out there appearing on the CMA’s. There could be some big things in McCarroll’s future, and if that is true, Honky Tonk Dreams is the first step in that success.

Reviewed by Vinny “Bond” Marini

CD Review
Georgia-Country Reviews

West Georgia-based Mike McCarroll's latest cd "Honky Tonk Dreams" is just that, a throwback to the great honky tonk songs of the past. He opens the cd with "Waiting On The Whiskey To Work", another fun drinking song, trying to drown the memories of a woman. "It's All About You", a cut about that woman that seems to feel the world revolves around her. "Waitin" is a song about about how life seems to be always "waitin'" on something, but he needs to move on. He cranks it up with the title track "Honky Tonk Dreams", a great fun song that will have you up and dancing. Full of fiddle, piano and the full assortment that will make you think you are in Texas on a Saturday night. "Cash Crop" is about the hard times, relying on the farm and doing what you have to do to survive. You two steppers would enjoy "Southern Pride" as he cranks it up with an anthem honoring the greats of southern country and rock. Mike gets his rock-a-billy on with "What You Gonna Do Now". He remembers that heart breaking woman again on "If The Devil Brought You Roses". He brings it back down with "Merle Haggard, Jack Daniels & Me", a fun drinking song. He kinda pocks back at Nashville with "Pop-style, Cookie-Cutter Formula Country Song" about how Nashville execs sometimes think any new act has to do what they want. "I Had It All" slows it back down about remembering a love. He closes out the cd with "The Devil In The Mirror" about a man taking the blame for his problems. "Honky Tonk Dreams" is a great collection of a little bit of every taste of country music; fun, dancing to heart breaking drinking songs. We at GC highly recommend ordering this cd. It'll be a favorite in your player. For more information and to purchase cd, go to:
by - October 1, 2010

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CD Review by MuzikReviews

Mike McCarroll is a sure fire bet to become a working class hero if his music catches on. McCarroll started his own business once the kids grew up and he was satisfied enough to give it his best shot, knowing there was nothing to distract or stop him. After paying some dues and building a successful business venture (‘Business Traveler Blues”) was in place, it was time to grab his guitar, head into the studio, and make the album he always wanted to (“At The Crossroads”). 

He was literally At The Crossroads of his life when this album got started. There could not have been a better title to have for his lifetime of waiting and his first album of studio material. 

At The Crossroads is 12 tracks of fired up blues, rock and country. It is about real life, what can happen along the way and most importantly the right and wrong decisions in our travels that shaped our lives into what it is today (“Must’ve Been Crazy”). This is what McCarroll sings about with passion, grace, and heartfelt words. Along the way, he plays some blistering guitar lines, pumping out blues, rock and country licks to give the album an overall atmosphere that speaks of life, love and the pursuit of happiness. 

I think the reason this album appealed me so much is because Mike is a man after my own heart, he followed his dreams and worked his ass off with an eventual return on his investment. Nothing was handed to him and the bottom line is he is a very successful man in any endeavor he decides to undertake. I could totally relate to that outlook on life. Besides finding a commonality with the artist, I simply loved his music. The use of three genres that are so closely weaved together makes every story that much more interesting and tasty. Let’s face it; all three genres are kissin’ cousins, especially country and the blues. McCarroll does a nice job of separating church from state, cuts loose with tons of emotion and sweat and gives each idiom it’s just due. 

This is music encapsulates a lifetime of emotions, love, disappoint, wonder and doubt into 12 tracks of party time rug cuttin’ joy. The entire package is right here folks, its indie, its real, and it rocks. 

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-January 17, 2008 

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CD Review by AudioOverflow:

When you receive an album from a relatively unknown artist, it's always a surprise. You look at the album wondering what to expect from lyrics, instrumentation, and overall effect of the album. When I learned that Mike McCarroll's album At The Crossroads was a fusion of country, rock and blues, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I'm always a little bit hesitant when it comes to musical fusions, because it either works or it's a complete dud. Having said that, lets get to the reason we're all here...

For the most part, I like At The Crossroads purely for the fact that this album has great potential. While it's not my favorite genres of music, it's McCarroll's heart and soul, and quite literally, stories from his life. You have to respect when an artist is not so formulated as to manufacture a song from the thoughts of, "I know this works, so I'll do this" or "everyone else is doing that, so I will too". While there are elements to this album that do not sound entirely original, it is my opinion that Mike McCarroll has indeed achieved originality.

One of the characteristics I like about this album is, it's not all the same. So often, a band/artist will produce an album where every song is a carbon copy of the song prior. McCarroll's tracks are very different from one another, both in content and sound. "Business Traveler Blues" and "Road Rage" are two songs that instantly become stories. They are both rugged, yet upbeat tracks that are entirely about what their titles claim; no metaphors here. What I love about these two songs in particular is their uniqueness. How many other songs have you heard dealing with the art of road rage? Personally, I've heard of one other and McCarroll's is surpassing by miles.

Musically, both instrumentally and vocally, there are certain tracks that I enjoy more than others, particularly "Get It On", "Saturday Night" and "House of Blues". "Get It On" is probably my favorite song on this album because I love the different sounds in this composition. At it's beginning, McCarroll sets off with a "talking" verse and then sings right into the chorus. The chorus is my favorite section as it reminds me of a good old southern, classic rock hit; it's definitely a guitar driven song, which I'm quite fond of. "Saturday Night" is strangely similar to many other country songs due to its common sounds. The chorus in particular seems to have the same structure as "A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action", another very successful song. It's not a bad thing, as the familiarity works for him in this instance, but too much similarity will not bode well for any aspiring musician. Eventually, it becomes too routine. "House of Blues" is a very good piece that I could definitely hear as a country hit, with a little bit of tweaking. In fact, if he did not yet have this full album and only had select songs for a demo, I would highly recommend he put "House of Blues" on there, along with the two just mentioned. "House of Blues" has some elements which help its interest factor including a good use of vocal distortion in the beginning and heavy fiddle and steel guitar instrumentation, adding to the country feel. This is overall, one of McCarroll's stronger songs. The last track on the album, "I Wonder" also has a really intriguing flute feature, which grabs your attention almost immediately. It pairs nicely with the guitar...............................more......................................

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