Seasoned musical veteran John Michael Hersey returns with Footprints, which happens to be his nineteenth album to date. A truly wonderful hidden gem of a musical canon to explore, extending back two and a half decades.

Based in Pelham, New York, John Michael Hersey is a singer, songwriter, and actor. Using the guitar as his weapon of choice, Hersey’s music is weighted and elaborate, rooted in classical rock traditions, and steeped in modern, succulent production. The sounds on Footprints are ever so familiar, but exceedingly fresh, immersive, and entertaining.

Labeling himself first and foremost as a storyteller, John Michael Hersey’s music is lyrically heavy and contextual, which bodes exceedingly well for his gentle, guitar-based arrangements. The songs, whether they are rock, funk, country, or blues, all sound like delicate and nuanced little nuggets of stories that could be easily digested.

Hersey kicks the album off with ‘Everybody Wants It Now’. A classical blues rock piece that sets the tone well with its overdriven, ominous riffs and honky-tonk piano lines. Showcasing his affinity for soul choir oohs and aahs, an element that’s extensively utilized on footprints, Hersey’s choir arrangements help soften his songs, acting as a musical mattress of sorts that wraps the fiery guitars in an aura of soulful sophistication.

‘I Get Down’ showcases Hersey’s funk tendencies. With sleazy poetry, twisting riffs, and delicious organs, ‘I Get Down’ is if Led Zeppelin did funk in 2024. ‘Luster’ is lighthearted and soft, with its easygoing chord structures and clean rhythm guitar, it is the album’s first moment of respite. ‘Tuesday Is Blues Day’ is a jazz blues waltz that’s effervescent, with a pulling quality to the unusual chord changes and Hersey’s nail-biting story.

After the hell-raising rock on ‘Behave’, Hersey unleashes his inner Elton John on ‘Break the Glass’, a piano-driven ballad with heartwarming textures and heartbreaking words. ‘Nothing’ starts with one of the album’s nicest guitar solo passages, before its tragic blues start. Clean guitars, restrained piano, melancholic chords, and a slow tempo all help catapult ‘Nothing’ into one of the album’s most tranquil pieces. With its philosophical words and unfamiliar chord changes, it is also one of the album’s most introspective.

‘Without Annette’ is another nailbiter about a trapeze artist in a traveling circus. The song’s subdued waltz and choice of words help spin a mystical atmosphere around the song’s warm and embracing composition. One of the album’s more outstanding pieces. Hersey ends the album on the cheerful reaffirmation of ‘Grow Where You’re Planted’. A reassuring song encouraging listeners to appreciate their lives and what they have going on around them. With gospel-inspired rhythms, melodies, and chord structures, it proves to be a capable closer to a very balanced and mature listen.

It shows that John Michael Hersey has nineteen albums under his belt. A mature songwriter who is perfectly comfortable with his craft, Hersey spins songs that are pulling with finely crafted stories, genial musical warmth, and a charisma that’s colorful, easy-going, and easy to love. Footprints is a nice and comforting listen that doesn’t take much effort to fall for.