It's been an interesting journey for Mike Droho, starting in 2006 when he wrote and recorded a solo album and toured with only a computer as a backing band. In 2008 he wrote all of the musical parts before assembling an incredibly talented backing band and released new recordings. And now Mike Droho is back with yet another musical masterpiece.
Mike Droho expanded in 2008 when he met vocal percussion master Anthony ""Soundshaker"" Lamarr, reconnected with former bandmate and bassist/keyboardist Scott Lamps and discovered violinist Ida Jo to form Mike Droho & The Compass Rose. Their latest release, And The World Makes Sense Again, continues the musical excellence Droho's fans have come to expect.
The quartet seamlessly fuses folk, pop and hip-hop to form a sound unlike any other. With abundant musical talent, one might expect a struggle between members trying to showcase themselves, but each part comes together to highlight each others' talents, giving life to each song.
It may seem like too much history, but the background lends insight and added meaning to each of the songs as And The World Makes Sense Again can be seen as a musical history of the group, conquering themes from new beginnings, both good and bad relationships, as well as a look to the future.
A prelude, intermezzo and coda set the tone for the album, presenting ""We can start a new life"" as a resounding theme amidst powerful chords and beats that let the listener know Droho is back and better than before, but they get slightly lost in transition with the surrounding songs.
""Without a Dime"" kicks off the album with Droho's smooth vocals and backing strings, slowly building as heavy wurlitzers chime in on the upbeats. He sings about making something of himself when he says, ""Without a prayer, without a dime to my name / And with nobody but myself to rely on."" He goes on to add, ""Taking names, getting past, making passes on the lead car / The finish line can only be,"" which is a fitting series of lyrics for a band bursting back into the music scene.
What seems like a drum set comes in halfway through the song, but don't be fooled. Lamarr didn't get his nickname as a ""soundshaker"" for no reason. No drumsets were used in recording, only Lamarr's extravagant vocal percussion and the rare tambourine. This heavy beatboxing fades out of ""Without a Dime"" and picks up again in ""Shame On You,"" contrasting the folksy first track with the fast-paced hip-hop jam.
The Compass Rose truly comes together on ""Back On Top,"" a triumphant story fusing blues and hip-hop. Droho sings, ""They ain't got a thing on me / No they ain't got what it takes / This is the best I've ever been,"" backed with beautiful minor harmonies. Back-and-forth banter interrupts the music, potentially creating the perfect spot for a solo featurette in a live show. Several written callbacks allow the supporting members to get involved, creating a space for them to have fun and thoroughly enjoy themselves.
Other notable tracks include the strings-powered ballad ""Said and Done,"" ""What Holds You Down"" and the closing track, ""It Was Not Me,"" which ends the album in spectacular fashion before the quiet ""Coda"" fadeout.
Between the classically trained violin, upright bass, wurlitzer, the Soundshaker and Droho's incredible lyricism, the Compass Rose put out an album that constantly switches and fuses sounds that make the listener not only question, but also anxiously await what's coming next. With a résumé like Droho's and an ability to put on an entertaining live show, Mike Droho & The Compass Rose is certainly a Madison group worth checking out.