Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Mike Conley / My Little Secret


Jason Hoffman

Whatzup Features Writer

Published December 16, 2004

Heads Up! This article is 18 years old.

Mike Conley is a name that should be well

known to every whatzup reader. Not only

does he constantly perform solo and duo gigs

around the area, but he also hosts open mike

nights and walked away with two Whammys this past

February. I’m beginning to think that he cloned

himself (two Whammys, two Mike Conleys – mere

coincidence?).

Somehow Conley found time to record his first

collection of original songs, My Little

Secret. As he is known primarily as a solo

artist, Conley wanted to make sure that this side

was well represented on the album, and a number

of the tracks include just a man and his guitar

(and sometimes a violin or saxophone). But some

of his songs begged to be fleshed out, and for

this he turned to Tim Bushong who ended up

engineering and co-producing the project as well

as providing electric guitar and trombone. At

T-Bush Record Plant they brought in some of the

area’s finest players: Bryan Bankson (Rosemary

Gates) on bass, Jon Ross (Definitely Gary) on

drums and Brian Lemert with guitars and trumpet.

These “hired hands” gelled so completely that

their rock solid foundation sounds as if they

have been playing together for years.

The brief instrumental “Startup” appropriately

opens the album with lone guitar and eerily

altered violin provided by Marty Spriggle. “Home”

is an excellent example of Conley’s solo material

translated to the studio. Two guitars, vocal

harmonies and violin present this sad folk song

with lots of atmosphere, losing none of the

intimacy of the original. Kaylie Duncan provides

cello counter melodies for “Let Her Go,” another

sad song (“She just wants to be free / She

doesn’t want to be with me”) with a light and

strangely hopeful sound. “Chillin’ Out” is a

relaxed summer day that has sounds like the

musical cousin to Zeppelin’s “Going to

California,” and “2 Days” is a simple, sweet love

song (“I love you with your cheesy little laugh

and a smile to die for”), consisting of acoustic

guitar and some exhilarating tension-filled

harmonies.

As good as these solo songs are, Conley is just

as good at writing songs for your standard rock

band. “You Were Right” is a mid-tempo rocker that

throws in the kitchen sink, including violin and

sax accents to humorous lyrics (“I can see that

you’re still perfect / You exist to point it

out”). Although primarily a vigorous pop song, at

times the way the instruments work together

verges on symphonic. A good-time 70s vibe

permeates the shimmering “Dreaming,” and the

light R&B groove of “We’ll Make It,” which

previously appeared on the benefit CD A Hot

Cat in a Dog’s World, will certainly get your

foot tapping. Chris Richardson provides a

growling sax to the hard hitting “Why?,” where

Conley manages to sound a bit like Anthony Kiedis

of el Chili Peppers against a wall of horns. For

sheer fun it’s difficult to beat “Shallow,” which

opens with a jaunty 20s sound and goes on to wade

in psychedelic waters before rolling in the mud

of 90s indie rock.

My Little Secret really should come with

a bright orange sticker warning the buyer that

sticky melodies will stay with them long after

the music stops. Conley manages to span both the

solo and rock band genres through the impressive

strength of his songwriting. This incredible

album is available nearly everywhere (at all

Wooden Nickel stores, Barnes & Noble,

Mitchell Books, B-Sharp Guitars, the Dash-In,

Borders and the Sound Cellar in Angola) so you

have no excuse not to buy several for Christmas

gift-giving.

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