I reviewed the last release from Paul Mark –Blood & Treasure - and found plenty to like about his heady mix of blues and rock. On his latest project, Mark ventures off in an entirely different direction. From the award winning CD cover created by Steve Buzell to the lush sound of each track, it is clear that Mark paid attention to all aspects of this project. He composed all of the tunes, plays all of instruments except on one cut and produced the disc.
Much of the all-instrumental program falls into the folk music vein. Cuts like “Kings Counsel” show an affinity for the music of the Beatles while cuts like “Ariel Island” give you an idea of Mark’s skill as a fingerpicking guitarist. The overdubbed guitar parts on “Mud River” form a gentle rhythm that will calm the soul.
Mark includes some familiar blues progressions on the last half of the disc. “Bug Jar” sports some elaborate picking that alternates with some darker, more pensive moments. “Circus in Roma” shows the influence of Piedmont style of acoustic blues. Mark also utilizes some country blues riffs on “In Desoto County”. The leader switches to electric guitar for “Mirage Avenue #2”, with James Strain on bass, Harry Peel on drums and Al Gamble on the Hammond organ. The music still retains the ethereal quality found on the rest of the disc. The final cut, “Enterrement”, features Mark using slide on a resonator guitar on a piece that uses a distinct gospel feel to bring the project to a dignified ending.
One has to admire Mark for making such a huge stylistic switch from one release to the next. His abilities as a guitar player allow him to make each composition interesting, especially if you take the time to listen to how skillfully Mark mixes the various guitar lines on each song. This is the disc you’d want to play on that night where all you want to do is sit in a comfortable chair with your favorite drink, in peaceful contemplation of the state of the universe.
reviewed by Mark Thompson