Material: Many of the tunes spanning over two long sets by Mendelson are from the Great American Songbook of traditional blues. Songs like “Flip, Flop, Fly,” “Messin’ with the Kid,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Hound Dog” and Sam Cooke’s “What a Wonderful World” are on the musical menu. But there are also tasty Mighty Michael originals, like the heartfelt “Not a Good Friend” and the swinging “Jukin’ with Michael.”
Musicianship: Mighty Michael Mendelson is a, just turned, 10-year-old harmonica phenom. First and foremost, his acumen on the instrument far exceeds his years. He embodies some of the best elements of classic blues greats, like Little Sonny and Charlie Musselwhite, and presents them in a sophisticated way. He also sings in a direct and emotive manner, with a slight vibrato in his phrasing. The young man is flanked by, essentially, The Billy Davis Rhythm Machine. They are some of the best first-call players in Detroit. The ensemble is led by former lead guitarist of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, Jackie Wilson and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Billy Davis. In a word, this band swings, and the nearly 80-year-old Davis is at the top of his game.
Performance: The overall vibe of the evening was upbeat and a ton of fun. Highlights included guest vocalist and Detroit blues ambassador Lady Champagne sitting in with the band on a medley of “Stormy Monday” and “Tore Down.” The young artist’s infectious and ebullient rapport with the audience and his show-stopping take on Magic Dick’s “Whammer Jammer” were especially impressive. Mendel- son even hopped on guitar for a couple numbers to play supportive, albeit rudimentary, rhythms and licks behind Davis.
Summary: It is obvious that Mendelson is a gifted musician and a young man with a future. It is also apparent that he has done his homework and learned the history behind the style of music he has chosen to pursue. While it is a given that he has a long way to go, there is no doubt that he is well on his way. Mighty Michael has earned his stage name, as he is a true entertainer that we should keep our eyes on in the years to come.
Contact: Risa Mendelson, 248-342-3973
The Players: Mighty Michael Mendelson, harmonica, vocals and guitar; Billy Davis, guitar and vocals; Norman Rhodes, keyboards; Michael Davis, bass; Greg Hills, drums