‘“February Sessions” by Mike Grutka After 2009’s long-labored-over “Ria,” Saratoga Springs songwriter Grutka took the RPM Challenge, writing and recording all of these 11 songs during the shortest month of the year. It’s raw and unpolished, but these songs are perhaps the best Grutka has ever written, his friendly melodies and vocals feeling completely at ease and lived in.”
The Daily Gazette
Dec 26, 2010
Mike Grutka’s ‘February Sessions
On his previous album, “Ria” (which was officially released just a couple of months ago), Saratoga Springs singer-songwriter Mike Grutka did it all himself – singing, songwriting, playing all the instruments, producing, etc. – and he very nearly pulled it off.
This time around, he did the same thing, except that he brought in drummer Will Railton on two-thirds of the tunes. It was a smart move that makes all the difference on this batch of 11 impressive original songs. No question about it, this is Grutka’s best work yet.
Titled “February Sessions,” the album was written and recorded during February, 2010, as part of the annual RPM Challenge in which bands and musicians attempt to create an album’s worth of music from scratch during the shortest month of the year.
The lone exception to the RPM Challenge restrictions is the album’s closing track, “Lullabye,” which was recorded live at WEXT-FM. Sonically, it’s a different animal, but it neatly wraps up the album on a softer, sweeter note.
Michael Stipe and R.E.M. remain Grutka’s most obvious influences – especially on the opening, shimmering swirl of “Circle” – but he doesn’t wear them on his sleeve as much as he did with “Ria.”
The bouncy “La La Song” melds power pop with a ’70s country-rock feel. “She Said” is a nostalgic but optimistic ballad about loss, fueled by a gentle hip-hop shuffle beat. Chugging rhythms, close vocal harmonies and some deep twang guitar riffs keep “This Is” rolling down the track.
Not as polished as “Ria,” “February Sessions” is looser. It has a much stronger live vibe, which of course is difficult to grab onto when you’re working in a studio all by yourself. But Grutka nails it nicely here.
Mike listed in ‘Top 30 Favorite Discoveries” 2010 by A Million Watts of Sound
Who doesn’t need to chill ouit a little? So when the music of Mike Grutka came across my desk I was all too happy to give it a listen. The music is described as rock, pop, alternative, folk. Clearly it leans heavily on the folk part, but doesn’t lull you to sleep.
Grutka’s plaintive vocals pulls you into his world and picks you up and holds you and eases your mind. It’s easily something you can listen to regardless of who you have around. The music is just that pleasant. Well crafted tracks. Produced properly, not overly polished. Just right.
‘February Sessions’ by Mike Grutka
‘Awesome’ 5 Stars Ed Ovett, Ed’s Mixed Bag Podcast
Interview with ‘The Playlist’ Nate Robbins
Ria by Mike Grutka
Review by Zack Daggy: The Mothpod
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
There are few artists out there anymore that transcend. The type of artists that used to take you away from the mundane of the everyday, and deliver you into spaces of passion, emotion and soul. With the harmonies of their voice and the magic behind their music they wouldn’t just create songs; they created worlds. Mike Grutka has created such a world, and it’s called Ria.
Top Of The World – This first track off of Ria introduces listeners to Mike Grutka’s gruff yet smooth voice. At times, particularly during this track, it sounds very much like Tom Petty fussed with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. It’s sweet with just a hint of a twang. The result is unique enough that it acts as a crucial cornerstone for the entire album and could either make or breaks most tracks. Luckily Mike Grutka’s voice vastly makes most of the tracks on this album. With “Top of the World” in particular it turns a simple pop melody in the vein of The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” into an alternative/folk track that would make Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers proud.
Denver (Spinning Around) – Deserves to be the one that makes Mike Grutka a household name. It’s not a song of breakout moments, but it doesn’t need them. With catchy hooks that sink in deep and a rhythm similar to R.E.M.’s hit “Shiny Happy People,” this song has single written all over it.
Review by: Dan MacIntosh
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Singer/songwriter Mike Grutka is hell bent on never sticking to any one musical style. He hops – chameleon-like – from genre to genre, like an impatient driver flipping around the radio dial while stuck in morning traffic.
The best Grutka is one that digs old R.E.M. recordings, and even older Byrds discs. “Denver (Spinning Around)” is one such winning guitar jangle fest that brings to mind those days back when Michael Stipe mumbled his lyrics and nobody cared. The song’s lyric talks about seeking meaning in travel. While name-dropping big city names all over the States, Grutka mentions at one point: “Walking out will set you free/When I finally left the path they’d shown me.” This last line, in particular, suggests that true happiness is only discovered when one sets out to make his or her own path. “Come With Me” comes off a little like a nice Byrds-y ballad. Its lyric also suggests there is power in motion. “Take me by the hand, come away,” Grutka pleads. Grutka uses a similar lyrical device during “The Sea” where he suggests, “Take my hand and life is sweet”.
Mike Grutka has a lot of fine music in him. One has to wonder what else he has up his sleeve. Ria may get a little too adventurous for its own good at times, but since Mike Grutka is such a skilled songwriter, he’s able to hold it altogether. This is one musical career to keep an eye on.
Greg Haymes- Nippertown.com
Mike Grutka’s ‘Ria’
Saratoga Springs singer-songwriter Mike Grutka describes his sound as “acoustic-based funky modern roots rock ‘n roll,” which sure as hell covers a lot of bases, but does manage to narrow down the scope of things at least a bit.
Grutka’s got some serious talent – Yes, this is a one-man project – he wrote the tunes, played and sang everything, recorded the album, produced it and snapped the photos for the album cover artwork as well. It’s an admirable ambition to present your unique artistic vision – whether it’s music, film, canvas, whatever – without diluting it with creative compromise by bringing collaborators into the picture. And Grutka comes pretty damn close to pulling it off with this disc.
“Denver (Spinning Around)” is my fave track on the album. It’s a great song. Grutka sings in a keening monotone that immediately recalls Michael Stipe and REM. The song is chockfull of ear-grabbing guitar riffs, swelling keyboards and an appropriately propulsive bassline. It’s got everything
Elsewhere on the album, Grutka’s got the right stuff. There’s a baroque (synth) string arrangement on “Sunshine” that pops right off the disc. I love the overlapping vocal lines that he employs throughout the album. He coaxes out a great variety of sounds on the album, too-from Crowded House-like bounce ‘n’ twinkly of “Actress” to the rubbery bass thump of “Standing Beside Me” to the crystalline keyboard tinkle of “Come With Me.”
Best of all, he’s got the songs. Smart tunes with the requisite Beatles-pop roots, to be sure, but he stretches out beyond the usual pop protocol – especially on the majestic “Goodbye” – without abandoning accessibility.
Ultimately, “Ria” is admirable. The songs, the arrangements and the vision are all there. I can’t wait to hear what he does next.
Mike Grutka has found his groove in Ria
rating 4/5 stars
review by Janie Franz
The twelve songs on this album, all Grutka originals, range from love songs to rock ballads about ambition to songs that chronicle self-discovery. The songs are radio friendly.
“Goodbye” (is) a simple song that has a heart-tugging melody, superbly delivered by Grutka’s vocal style. The production is restrained, though there is a lot going on for the ear to hear. It is mainly the simplicity of the vocals and the guitar that make the song stand out. Very nicely done. ”Actress” is another gem on this album. It’s upbeat, yet with and inner melancholy woven into the lyrics. ”Everything” also is another peppy tune with darker undertones. ”Same Thing” has a Beatlesque fell while it points to a sort of spinning, non-movement of a life.
Ria starts slow but hits its stride in the middle…the album works, mostly because it creates a mood that is infectious. It will be interesting to see what Mike Grutka does with his next album, which is waiting in the wings for release.
Review of Ria
University of Arizona
Issac Gaeler 1/20/2010
Right off the bat you’ll notice that Mike Grutka’s voice is nasaly. But if you get past that, you’ll see that the music is quite nice. It is fairly simple, but who said music needs to be complex to enjoy it, right? ”Ria” harks back to the 90′s rock music era with some major pop influence. There are some heavy synths and electronic keys. But it works!! It seems to make good driving music. Every track has forward motion and does not seem too slow.
Sounds like: R.E.M., Talking Heads, The Police, U2, Smashing Pumpkins (maybe just the voice)
Recommended tracks: Top of the World ****, Sunshine ****, The Sea ****, Actress ***
WMUH 91.7 FM Allentown PA
“RIA” Named one of the top releases September 2009.
Mike Grutka – Ria ”Transforms from an eerily REM-like (‘Top of the World) and (Denver) to a very electronic (Sunshine) with backing instrumentals sounding like the Eurythmics.” Bryan Skowera WESU 88.1FM
“Mike’s new album, “Ria”, is striking out in a new and bold direction.”
Dave Michaels, 97.7 WEXT
“The songs are refreshing.” (on Ria)
89.3 the Current
Jim McGuinn- Program Director
“Good songs, great voice…And compared to most of what I hear, I actually enjoyed listening, which says a lot these days.”
Review by: Sally Niezer
Mike Grutka’s album Myself Again has a soft rock feel mixed with a slight throw back to the 70’s classic rock era. The lead singer sounds remarkably like Michael Stipe, the lead singer from REM. The album is creative, enjoyable, and all the songs have an ease to them which makes it a relaxed listen.
“Simply one of the top 5 bands I have ever seen.” Barry Muscatello-Booking Agent Albany, NY
The Mike Grutka Project…”Think R.E.M. meets Dave Matthews Band but with a little more chutzpah.”
Jonathan Leeder Starpolish.com
Larry Kaszynski–Music Director
“Song for the Rain” is getting 24 spins. I will give it more spins starting next week. I like a lot of other songs off (Reach) and will be adding 4 or 5 of them to my rotation.”
Paying Homage to the local folks who jam
Classically trained violinist Mike Grutka hasn’t let textbook study drown his muse. In the multi-instrumentalist’s second release, “Reach”, Grutka acts as a guide for an enjoyable splurge of rythmic tunes, cranked through the dirty and distorted tubular amp like the great garage anthems of the modern age.
Grutka has the rare ability to blend a world of influences-from subtle Rasta beats to hints of riffs from Zimbabwe influenced guitars-and churn it through the music machine in a way that makes it completely his own. All this and a singing voice that sounds uncannily like Michael Stipe. (3 1/2 stars out of 4)