Among the highlights of the 1980s local music scene was the band Street Pajama, which played smart pop-rock infused with jazz, funk, reggae and blues. Fronted by singer Merle Harmon and singer-songwriter-guitarist Mike King, they released three albums before disbanding.
King's new solo album is in the same vein. In addition to new originals, he revives a couple of songs from the Street Pajama era. (Harmon, a local psychotherapist, now uses the first name Lane and plays with the group Reverie.)
The funky blues vibe of "Why Should I Settle for Less?" owes much to the various keyboards of Lamont Arthur. "I Love What Could Have Been"—in which a walking bass part by Larry Lee Lerma, Heather Hardy's fiddle and King's mandolin provide bluegrass touches—still leans on King's trademark sassy sense of groove.
King combines a reggae bottom, Latin flourishes and a folk-rock arrangement on "Welcome to the USA." While "Ridin' Through the Pines" is a charming acoustic folk-soul meld, the Dixieland-sprinkled "What Crime Am I Paying for Now?" benefits from a punchy horn chart featuring all three Rosano brothers and trombonist Fruitpie. And "Goin' to Guatemala" will be an obvious touchstone for old Pajama fans; it's a rewrite of "Outright, Downright Change," from that band's 1979 debut album, I Get Peculiar.
This album closes with "Beverly Tremblestems: The Swingin' Vegetarian," inspired by the lead character in King's recently published first novel, Blues & Grace: A Civil War Odyssey. Now that's marketing synergy.