Michael Kane is a man with a lot to say and not a lot of time to say it. But the stories told across Broke But Not Broken, the anticipated new album from Worcester’s Michael Kane & the Morning Afters, set for April 8 release via State Line Records, weren’t crafted overnight. In fact, it was a record that took years to create, and a lifetime to perfect.
It’s a sign of patience, endurance, and above all, a creative drive to sing songs the way they were meant to be sung, and to play their brand of gritty Americana rock and roll the way it was meant to be played. In the age of the single, the shrinking attention span, and the here today / gone today nature of music, Kane has sat atop the barstool of your local pub and welcomed you into his world. We’d say he opened up his chest to show his heart, but as anyone in the punk scene knows, he’s been wearing it on his sleeve this entire time.
“Most of these songs were written over the period of a couple years,” Kane says. “I was going through some medical issues. I had a handful of surgeries, as well as going through a divorce. The songs just came out. There is a certain amount of inner struggle in the songs for sure, but I also feel that there is a great amount of hope in them as well. The record definitely tells a story.”
And it picks up a few years after Michael Kane & the Morning Afters formed back in 2016. Across a dozen songs and a 40-minute runtime, Broke But Not Broken – the follow-up to a pair of EPs, 2016’s Adding Insult To Industry and 2017’s Laughing At The Shape I’m In – shows Kane and his band in their truest form, lifting rock and roll up from the gutter and weaving together a weathered, lived-in sound of resiliency and defiance buoyed by the tales that shape our lives and those around us.
For Kane, his personal pitfalls and triumphs ran alongside societal ills – from a global pandemic to social tensions to whatever is flashing across Twitter right this very moment. The way of the world may have kept Broke But Not Broken on the State Line shelf a bit longer than it should have, but now the time is right to let these songs, and the storytelling contained within, air out on the stage, with release parties planned in Worcester (April 23 at Hotel Vernon), Portland (April 29 at Sun Tiki Studios), and Boston (April 30 at Midway Café). It will also cement Michael Kane & the Morning Afters as one hell of a rock and roll band.
“We took our time, played a lot of shows and I wrote – a lot,” says Kane. “I’m so glad we didn’t rush one out in, say, 2018. [State Line Records owner] Mark Lind has the patience of a saint. I always wanna release stuff, get it out, let it be heard. That being said, with our lineup not set in stone and then the pandemic, we needed to sit on it and I’m glad we did… we took our time releasing a couple singles and sorta just sat on it until we felt confident we saw a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The lineup is now intact, built off the sweat of live stages, endless sessions in practice spaces, and the album’s finish-line crawl with engineer and co-producer Roger Lavallee at Wachusett Recording in Princeton. Joining vocalist and guitarist Kane here as the Morning Afters are a gang of punk scene lifers: Franklin Siplas (electric guitar), Timmy Weagle (bass), Jeff Hoey (drums), and Joe Ferraro (piano and keyboards). They’re augmented on the record by a few special guests, notably James Lynch, as Kane is a longtime confidant of Lynch’s pre-Dropkick Murphys band, The Westies; and Helen Sheldon of Helen & The Trash Pandas, one of Kane’s “favorite voices” who he knew he needed on the record.
Michael Kane & the Morning Afters
Michael Kane – Electric and acoustic guitars
Franklin Siplas – Electric guitar
Timmy Weagle – Bass
Jeff Hoey – Drums
Joe Ferraro – Piano and keyboards
Additional Musicians on ‘Broke But Not Broken’:
James Lynch – Lead electric guitar
Roger Lavallee – Electric guitar
Helen Sheldon – Harmonies and background vocals
Lynch and Sheldon both appear on “Tear This World Apart,” the incendiary heartland-rock single that kicks off Broke But Not Broken with a fever pace. A song about being a rock and roll lifer and giving it all for the culture that raised so many of us sets a thematic tone for the record. “‘Tear This World Apart’ starts the record with a theme of ‘Can I do this? Can I start over?’ It ends with ‘A Long Way Down’ and that’s more of a freeing tune, like ‘I did it. I’m gonna travel. I’m gonna live life a bit’. And then there is everything in between.”
Kane laughs as he delivers that last line, because like in life itself, it’s the “between” that forms the soulful core of the record. February single “Dark Nights” is a ripper of a sing-along pub anthem that marks the end of a relationship gone south: “You know it’s not anyone’s fault, but you’re always playing the contrarian towards each other,” Kane admits. “I’d drive around the neighborhood and just listen to the radio before walking through the door.”
Elsewhere, the alt-country minded “Lost My Mind” reflects that point when a person knows their relationship is over, while 2021 single “Carol Kaye” is all about getting back out there and trying your best; “Cooking The Books” chronicles Kane’s upbringing as an “artsy weirdo” and looking around today to see the successes of like-minded folk; and “99 Bottles”, composed with Aria Rad (Coffin Salesman), is a rousing folk-punk puncher about Kane’s medical issues. You can hear the struggling Kane’s voice, but you can also hear the hope. And you can feel the weight of the world lifted off his once-sunken shoulders with every gravelly note he belts out. Each word has meaning, each note has value. Each turn is Michael Kane & the Morning Afters.
“I feel that Broke But Not Broken represents us more than I ever hoped it would,” says Kane. “I feel we really found the sound I’ve had in my head the whole time. Honestly I’m just so proud of this band and these guys. They worked their asses off indulging in all my crazy ideas. I’m just proud we pulled it off.”
‘Broke But Not Broken’ credits:
All original songs written by Michael Kane
‘99 Bottles’ written by Aria Rad & Michael Kane
‘Bring It On Home’ written by San Cooke
Recorded and co-produced by Roger Lavallee at Wachusett Recording in Princeton, MA
Mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak in Allston, MA
Mastered by Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph Mastering in Portland, ME
‘’Broke But Not Broken’ photo by Douglas Sullivan
Album cover concept and arrangement by Monty Montgomery