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  • Jonathan Widran

MIKE MONTREY BAND, In the Middle of Hope

Like a lot of artists whose brilliant and insightful songs seem almost prophetic in the way they meet our collective anxious moments of 2020, Mike Montrey makes a full disclosure upfront about his soulful yet alternately raw and sparkling EP In the Middle of Hope.

The multi-talented front man, guitarist, singer-songwriter and eclectic Americana fusion mastermind of the popular New Jersey based Mike Montrey Band says, “I was looking through the lyrics and noticed that they all have this vibe of that sentiment which was, ‘In the Middle of Hope.’ Then two weeks later, this s*** happens. . .”

So while the engaging, thought provoking tunes on this EP were penned pre-pandemic, we can revel and rejoice in the overall sense of uplift and optimism that Montrey and his crew – featuring the splendid vocalist Jen Augustine, the rhythm section of Anthony Duca and Andy Meyer and the lush colorings of Phil Silverberg (organ/piano) and Jack Stanton (pedal steel guitar) – have graced us with.

The collection zips along, from the explosive, fast rolling, ultra-optimistic first single “Spirit of Youth” to a laid back, then rockin’ front porch twang and harmony session in “New Mexico” with the ensemble’s splendid vocalist Jen Augustine, and on to the deeply spiritual and thought provoking, vocally gritty acoustic closer “Statues and Saints.”

Thematically, Montrey balances rollicking, unbridled tunes like “Tell Me You Love Me” with gentler, heartfelt and emotionally raw reflections like “Victoria,” a steel pedal tinged ode to the enduring inspiration of his late mother Victoria.

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