|Recording information: Berkeley Street Studios, Santa Monica, CA; Harmony Studios, West Hollywood, CA; Ocean Way Studios, Hollywood, CA; Silent Sound Studios, Atlanta, GA.
|Vocalist Michael Grimm's 2011 self-titled major-label debut builds upon the singer's soulful mix of Southern rock and R&B that helped him win the fifth season of the reality TV vocal competition America's Got Talent. Although Grimm has released several independent albums over the years, in many ways this album is his real introduction to most music fans and certainly maximizes his potential as a rootsy yet blue-eyed soul singer. Produced by journeyman musician Don Was, the album is a slick if still organic-sounding release, the kind that artists like Hall & Oates, the Allman Brothers, Otis Redding, and Donny Hathaway excelled at during the '70s and '80s. The comparison fits, as Grimm is the kind of vocalist perfectly suited for this sort of earnest, bluesy pop/rock. To these ends, listeners get the bold and fiery leadoff duet with Heart's Ann Wilson on Buddy Miller's "Gasoline and Matches" as well as a handful of other inspired covers, including a spine-tingling version of Alicia Keys' "Fallin'," a gritty duet with Travis Tritt on Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man," and a gorgeous, perhaps definitive take on Chuck Prophet's "No Other Love." A songwriter in his own right, Grimm's compositions here are also quite good and add to the album's overall genuine tone. Ultimately, tracks like the Traffic-sounding slow-burn ballad "Stay with Me (Baby)" -- as well as the old Rod Stewart feature of the same name that he also covers here -- with Grimm clearly giving it all he's got, leave you with the impression that, while Grimm is obviously not fronting the Faces, he is certainly kicking ass. ~ Matt Collar