“This album distills the blues as the best smugglers convert methylated spirits in bourbon contest. A real treat.”
“The blues is a global form of entertainment, and we have had the great fortune to hear many of the world’s best players. Add to those numbers the extremely-talented Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip with “Ain’t Bad Yet!”
Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip have been tearin’ up the blues in Finland for over twenty years. They started out as an acoustic cover band, and, after a few personnel changes, turned into their current lineup, and began to write their own material and work on their now-legendary live shows. Their latest album, and sixth overall, is entitled “Ain’t Bad Yet,” and combines elements of Delta blues, rockabilly, and good ole straight-up combo blues.
At the helm is singer and harp blaster Micke Bjorklof, with Lefty Leppanen on guitars throughout. On bass is Seppo Nuolikoski, with Teemu Vuorela on drums. This one comes roarin’ out of the station with the chugging boogie of “Last Train To Memphis,” as Micke’s goin’ to see “Carl Perkins and a young Elvis in his blue suede shoes!” Lefty’s slide is on fire on this one, and, a few cuts later, they make a stop down at 706 Union for a cool shot of rockabilly-infused blues, “Blame It On The Bright Lights.”
Micke gets his harp greased up and ready in “Hold Your Fire, Baby,” then takes a look at today’s world of instant gratification with the frenetic pace of winnin’ the “Rat Chase.” The band shows off a definite Delta connection with Lefty’s powerful acoustic slide over Micke’s reassuring vocals that “It Ain’t Bad Yet, everything’ll be all right.” The set closes with another Delta gem, a story-in-song of a man on trial for robbing a bank and giving the money to a poor woman. Micke and the band beg the judge, “don’t put the man In Chains.”
We had two favorites, too. Micke hits the nail on the head with the slide-heavy funk of “Get Ya In Da Mood,” because everybody knows that “you gotta go down South, if you wanna have some fun!” The set’s most topical piece follows a Doomsday beat, as Micke warns us all that “this killing game” among each other is only gonna lead to a bitter “Rain In Jerusalem.”
The blues is a global form of entertainment, and we have had the great fortune to hear many of the world’s best players. Add to those numbers the extremely-talented Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip with “Ain’t Bad Yet!” Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow
Sunshine at night does not seem like it was the biggest influence for Finland’s Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip brand of slinky Blues. The Land of the Midnight Sun cast enough shadow for the late night Blue Soul of Ain’t Bad Yet, their sixth album, recorded and produced by John Porter at Rockfield Studios in Wales, home to the big rock of Britain by playing host to Queen, Black Sabbath, and Oasis. The rock heft bulks up the natural Blues in the music of Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip. Ain’t Bad Yet takes “Troublemaker” to task with a strict pounding rhythm, puts down heavy footfalls to walk through the “Sweet Dream’s A Sweet Dream”, hurries the groove to catch “Last Train to Memphis” as Micke Bjorklof tries to walk right in “Blame It On The Bright Lights” as Blue Strip lay down on a rhythm made of rubber.
” I really like Bjorklof’s vocals throughout and blended with Leppanen, Nuolikoski, Lindroos and Railio, this is a tough combo to beat. This is an excellent release!”
I just received the newest release, Ain’t Bad Yet, from Micke Bjorklof (pronounced Be-York-Loaf)& Blue Strip and it’s an excellent blues rocker. Opening with Last Train To Memphis, a driving rocker with great blues riff. Vocalist Micke Bjorklof leads the way and guitarist Lefty Leppanen chases on slide guitar backed by Teemu Vuorela on drums and Seppo Nuolikoski on bass. On Sweet Troublemaker, the band picks up a serious rock beat heavily reinforced by Vuorela on drums and Nuolikoski on bass. Tim Lewis joins on keys with Micke on lead vocal, Lena Lindroos and Veera Railio on backing vocal and Lefty on slide. Excellent rocker! Lefty opens Rain In Jerusalem with really rich, thick slide tones reinforced by Lewis on keys. With Timo Roiko-Jokela on percussion and Vuorela on drums, this track has a super rhythm. Super track! Offbeat funky, Get Ya In Da Mood has it’s own sound and Bjorklof adds blues harp to his lead vocals. Lefty lays down a really nice guitar solo with trem bends and stinging blues riffs, heavily reinforced by TRJ and Vuorela. Very nice! Slinky, Hold Your Fire Baby is one of my favorite tracks on the relese. It puts me in mind of a super track/remake by Al Green and Savoy Brown of an old Temptations track. It just has a super groove and I really like the hooded vocals with harp over the mix. Excellent track! On title track It Ain’t Bad Yet, Lefty digs in on resonator accompanying Micke for a somber ballad. With it’s island jazz mix, Rat Chase, the band shows it’s real versatility, creating a totally Caribbean feel. With heavy snare/cymbal beat and bass reinforcement, pushed along byLewis on keys, Micke really ramps up on this track vocally filling the air with smoke on harp. Excellent! Sweet Dream’s A Sweet Dream is the purest radio track on the release but even with it’s super hook and contained vocals, Lefty screams out great guitar riffs and Nuolikoski drives a great bass rhythm. Today has a ramblin’ country blues feel with finger picked banjo like guitar and light percussion. Two stepping, Blame It On The Bright Lights, has just a tint of 60’s beach music with easy vocal harmonizing. Vuorela maintains the tracks steadiness with tight drums and Lefty steps in with a flashy stylistic guitar solo. Wrapping the release is In Chains, an excellent primitive style blues with crisp with New Orleans style stumble drumming, warm slide work and perfectly thought out harp trimming. I really like Bjorklof’s vocals throughout and blended with Leppanen, Nuolikoski, Lindroos and Railio, this is a tough combo to beat. This is an excellent release!
“Terrific songs and outstanding performances with a rich southern vibe are key to the allure of this album, which by the way is produced by legendary John Porter…Ain’t Bad Yet is a soulful blend of blues and country, making this eleven track album a refreshingly cool listen from start to end. Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip definitely hit this one out of the park.”
Ain’t Bad Yet, the sixth album from Finnish blues-rock group Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip is an instant hit as far as I’m concerned. The lineup of the band remains the same, featuring Bjorklof(vocals/harmonica/guitar), Lefty Leppänen(electric guitar/slide guitar), Teemu Vuorela(drums), Seppo Nuolikoski(bass) and Timo Roiko-Jokela(percussion/malletkat). Terrific songs and outstanding performances with a rich southern vibe are key to the allure of this album, which by the way is produced by legendary John Porter.
A saucy rhythm, joined with hot harmonica licks, spill all over “Rat Race”, a spectacular jammin’ favorite, reminiscent of one of my favorite bands, Phish. I love the change of tempo when the band breaks into “Sweet Dream’s a Sweet Dream”, a slightly spacy Hendrix-influenced treat. Leppänen’s swampy slide guitar sounds so good on “Last Train to Memphis”, and “Today”.
Catchy blues-filed hooks and a hard driving beat keep the anti-war anthem “Rain in Jerusalem” quite centered. This is such a powerful song. Bjorklof delivers funky vocals and sweet harmonica over a really cool little bass-line provided by Seppo on “Hold Your Fire Baby”. Gritty blues sounds best with some cool harp. I dig the twangy “Blame It On the Bright Lights”, with its catchy back-beat. John Porter steps in with guitar in hand and is joined by singers Lena Lindroos and Veera Railio. This song reminds me a lot of southern twangsters, Southern Culture on the Skids. I can’t help but feel good all over when I hear it.
Ain’t Bad Yet is a soulful blend of blues and country, making this eleven track album a refreshingly cool listen from start to end. Micke Bjorklof and Blue Strip definitely hit this one out of the park.
“Finland’s best kept secret, and possibly hottest commodity, Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip are a blues/rock band reminiscent of some of the earliest blues-rockers.”
Ain’t Bad Yet
Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip
HokaHey Records HHR 1501
I found myself going back to Macke Bjorklof & Blue Strip and giving them another listen. It resulted in a rewrite of my review and an apology to the band. These are all top-notch musicians…some of the best in the world.
Finland’s best kept secret, and possibly hottest commodity, Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip are a blues/rock band reminiscent of some of the earliest blues-rockers. From hard-driving blues, deeply rooted in the oldest of blues traditions, to laid-back ballads, this band has their bases covered. The musicianship on this album is solid, through and through, with great guitar work and a rhythm section that is right on the money. As an added bonus, we have the fact that all the tunes are original, written by the band. Micke Bjorklof on vocals, harmonica and electric guitar (cut 4), Lefty Leppanen on electric and slide guitars & backing vocals, Teemu Vourela on drums, Seppo Nuolikoski on bass & vocals, Timo Roiko-Jokela on percussion, Tim Lewis on assorted organs, John Porter on electric guitar (cut 10) and background vocals thanks to Lena Lindroos & Veera Railio make up the unit that is tight as the proverbial gnat’s backside. They have obviously done their homework when it comes to blues and have not only a deep love for the genre but musical roots that run deep. If I had to pick a single word to describe this band, it would be “polished.” They have been plying their trade throughout Finland and Scandinavia for more than 20 years…and it shows. While I was not familiar with the band until just recently, you can bet I’ll not miss their next release. This band shows elements of what appears to be a Cuban influence on a number or two, which I found not only interesting, but refreshing. This band is diverse, moving from one style to another, seamlessly, and never drifting far from the root in blues in the process. While some purists might argue, it is hard to ignore the quality of the musicianship, the songwriting and the overall performance. To put it bluntly, this is an ass-kicking band, and well worth a good listen, and then some. — Bill Wilson
“These blues rockers capture the Muddy Waters just up from the Delta and working in a auto part factory vibe.”
MICKE BJORKLOF & Blue Strip/Ain’t Bad Yet:
Some things just sound like set ups for punch lines. Try this on for size: John Porter goes to Wales to produce Finland’s top, award winning blues rock band, and on the way to the studio where Queen recorded “Bohemian Rhapsody”… Strange but true? You have to adjust your stateside ears a touch for this but these blues rockers capture the Muddy Waters just up from the Delta and working in a auto part factory vibe. This is the sound of blues rock for the nu generation that have been looking for more than beats to fill their phones with.
-Chris Spector, Midwest Record
“This one should be chasing it down the awards road, as it’s a cracker. There isn’t a duff track on offer, so blues rockers need to be checking this out quickly”
Off to Finland for some blues now. And it’s the sixth album from Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip, even if they are a new name to me. But blow me down with a big blowy thing, but they’re good. I should have known that because when they travelled to Rockfield Studios in Wales to record this, it was to work with multi Grammy award winning producer, John Porter. Now he may have spent time working with shite like Billy Bragg and the Smiths, but it was his later work with the likes of Buddy Guy, B.B King, Taj Mahal, Keb Mo and Santana that has filled his mantelpiece with awards. And I assume he doesn’t have to wrok with rubbish nowadays. And so to Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip who have been playing the blues across Scandinavia for over 20 years, with their last record “After The Flood” voted as best Finnish blues album of the year on Radio Suomi ( I take it Erja Lyytinen didn’t have a record that year). And this one should be chasing it down the awards road, as it’s a cracker. Musically it veers from Chicago to ZZ Top, to mainstream blues rock with some slide guitar from Lefty Leyeppanen that lifts every song it appears on. There isn’t a duff track on offer, so blues rockers need to be checking this out quickly. No, quicker than that.
-Stuart A. Hamilton, The Rocker