“Garage and fifties rock ‘n’ roll, country, gospel, soul, punk, folk... Johnny Cash, the Pogues, the Dubliners, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, the Soft Boys, Nick Cave, Scott Walker, Bruce Springsteen, the Libertines, Elvis Costello, Lee Hazelwood, Gram Parsons, the Clash and Tom Waits” are just some of the influences the Mighty Stef lists on his MySpace page, and miraculously, they all make it into the music on 100 Midnights.
The end result of these textures is the creation of one of the most original voices that makes 100 Midnights such an amazing ride.
The Mighty Stef is a singer and songwriter from Dublin who has been celebrated in the U.K. press for the storytelling in his songs and for his passionate live shows.
His vocals are a sensually hoarse baritone coaxed out of a dark corner of some pub with temptations of whiskey, cigarettes, and pleasures of the flesh, themes that run through the offbeat songs on 100 Midnights.
“Tonight we must walk/tonight we must run/tonight we must lay down the remainders of our lives for the hound dogs of live/please trust me my darling/I will deliver for you/tonight won’t be ruled/won’t be schooled/won’t be swept to the side,” Stef sings on “Hound Dogs of Love,” a classic slice of garage band pie.
He slithers like a lizard around a lover on “Come Over to the Dark Side” in a way not heard since Jim Morrison prowled around a microphone.
“A lot of people say Jim Morrison when they hear my voice,” Stef says. “I listened to the Doors a lot as a kid when I was trying to discover my singing voice, so the lizard king must have had some baring on my formative years. My favorite Doors song is ‘Wintertime Love.’ he sings so beautifully on that.”
“You can stick that needle in that last responsive needle/but don’t let it steal the sunshine from your eyes,” sings Stef during “Sunshine Serenade,” a dustbowl ditty with drug references that make it a country cousin to the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers.”
Though he touches on elements of rock, country, and folk on 100 Midnights, the Mighty Stef is partial to all the dramatic burlesque possibilities available to him in the goose step waltz.
He plots against a lover on “I Swear I Have No Feelings for That Girl,” and strums a guitar like a “drunken old French brothel keeper” on the title track.
The offbeat songs are thoroughly captivating, and it is a complete thrill to listen to the risks that the Mighty Stef takes as he does the goose step to greatness.
“I’ve always been drawn to drinking music, even when I was a kid and far too young to drink,” says Stef. “When I discovered Tom Waits as a younger lad, I never really imagined that it would be the type of thing that I would ever be influenced by, but I like the cabaret element of what he did.
“But that’s only a marginal part of what I do. I consider myself a rock ‘n’ roll singer who writes generally in a folk style, and while the cabaret thing shaped me to some extent, I’m pretty much influenced by a lifetime of listening to all forms of music and by the people I have met and things that I have seen along the way.”
100 Midnights has some high-powered guests that lift these songs to new heights. He collaborates with Cait O’Riordan and Shane MacGowan, the later who lends his vocals to haunting Townes Van Zandt cover “Waitin’ Around to Die.”
“He told her to take care of me/she headed down to Tennessee/it’s easier to wait around to die,” croaks Shane in one of the most stirring vocals he has put on record this decade. Since Shane has been on a deathwatch in the Irish community for years, the irony of him doing this song is not lost on the listener.
“Myself and a couple of my band members, Switchblade Steve and Downtown Dan, became friendly with Cait just from being out and about in Dublin,” Stef says when asked about his Pogues connection.
“She is a big fan of the Dublin music scene and really encouraging of what we do. We run a weekly residency called acoustic nightmares in a Dublin club called the Village, and Cait kindly agreed to play bass for the night we did all Pogues covers. It was amazing.
“I always wanted to write a song that Cait could duet with me on. She is a really great singer. ‘Safe at Home’ came together really quickly. when she heard it she liked it so we did it.
“With regard Shane, that connection was made through my manager, Frank Murray, who managed the Pogues for years. Frank always wanted Shane and I to sing a song together, and since Shane is one of my all time heroes I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him. He was a total gentleman and we had a lot of fun and laughs in the studio!”
These Irish legends could crowd the style of most new artists, but it is Mighty Stef who steals the show every time. Download 100 Midnights today and be prepared to be haunted by one of the most unique voices you’ll hear all year.
Check him out on www.themightystef.com.