Flyinshoes Review

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FEATURED ARTIST MAY/JUNE

FEATURED ARTIST

On his myspace site, Mark Bates seems such a sweet, gently spoken young man, it's hard to believe that this is the same person who has produced an album that so melodramatically deals with all the darker sides of life, as chronicled by generation after generation of folk song writers. His liner notes suggest a troubled personal past - no details - for which this explosion of music has been a catharsis; indeed there is the suggestion that these dark tales of murder, pain and depression are directly inspired by his own life. Well if so, he seems to have seen way too much of that sort of thing for one lifetime. Mind you, sometimes it's the cheeriest of people who focus on these things in their imaginative lives.


Teaching himself guitar and piano to give himself the tools with which to express himself he has paid close enough attention to his masters - Townes van Zandt, Tom Waits, Neil Young, to name three - to show he has learnt how to put a song together, to give it a flow and a hook that will lodge in the brain. Clearly, too, there is a degree of experimentation as different forms and arrangements are tried out. Clean Through, which opens the album and tells of devotion in the face of emotional pain, sounds like white soul, Steve Dawson style. Mark has a good voice for it, the stretch for the high notes sounding like emotional intensity. Forbidden Love, also quite a soulful track, has a modern alt-country feel to it but the guitar break for the middle eight could have been lifted from Guns'nRoses or some such band and sounds slightly bizarre. Daisy is a blues amble with a country lyric: "I got the blues/ If your wife was a whore/ Well wouldn't you?", whilst Death Sucks has a vaudevillian air with the banjo, trumpet and clarinet fronting the arrangement. That arrangement in itself suggests he's laughing at his own morbid obsessions, but make of it what you will. His one cover here is Townes Van Zandts's Flyin Shoes ("won't be long/till I'm trying on/my flyin shoes"). It's not a bad cover at all, but all this gloom makes me want to put an arm round his shoulders and encourage him to find the bright side.


The absolute stand-out track is A Drunkard's Holiday; the drunkard in question has his life fall apart around him and this song is his declaration of intention to make a dramatic public demonstration of his anguish. I'd be surprised if you don't wince the first time you hear this, as I did, at the unflinching bitterness of it all. Often , in song, you're hearing the voice of an observer but this is the voice of a man seeking out how far down he can go, and it's remarkable stuff for a young fellow to write. I suppose when you're young you're more able to see the world in all or nothing terms; as you get older, no matter what life has dealt you, you're more likely to see the world in a steadier, day after day, sort of a way.


There's loads of good, interesting stuff going on, here on Down The Narrow. I like Mark Bates' soulful singing, his use of piano based songs and his intensely personal and honest approach to writing; he's serious about his art, which bodes really well for the future; I'd say that Down The Narrow is too disparate for me to love it in it's entirety but I reckon he's around for the long haul and I'm already looking forward to what comes next.

John Davy


Find more music like this on Flyinshoes Review
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May 2016

1
Hayes Carll
72 pts.
Lovers and Leavers
30 Tigers
HDB,LK
2
Sturgill Simpson
62 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
HH,HB,FCE
3
Hackensaw Boys
50 pts.
Charismo
Free Dirt Records
BM
4
Kacy & Clayton
49 pts.
Strange Country
New West
HO,JSM
5
Dave McGraw & Mandy Fer
48 pts.
Off-Grid Lo-Fi
Dave & Mandy Music
KG,SZ
6
Carter Sampson
46 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
PJ
 
Michael Fracasso
46 pts.
Here Come The Savages
Blue Door Records
CVL,DHO,LM,RB
8
Slobberbone
43 pts.
The Bees and Seas
New West
BK,FC,RK,MVP
9
Luther Dickinson
42 pts.
Blues & Ballads Vol. 1 & 2,
New West Records
TJ
 
Wink Burcham
42 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
MM,CRS,AN,JD
11
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
 
12
Robbie Fulks
33 pts.
Upland Stories
Bloodshot Records
BR,PK
13
Grant-Lee Phillips
30 pts.
The Narrows
Yep Roc Records
 
14
Thomas Hine
29 pts.
Some Notion Or Novelty
THM Records
NC,EZ
15
Birds of Chicago
28 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
FS
 
Rodney DeCroo
28 pts.
Campfires On The Moon
Tonic Records
JJ
17
Cale Tyson
27 pts.
Careless Soul
Clubhouse Records
AR,BH
18
Brooks Williams
26 pts.
My Turn Now
Crimp
GC
 
Mountain Heart
26 pts.
Blue Skies
Compass Records
JB
 
The Wood Brothers
26 pts.
Paradise
Blue Rose Records
 
21
Kelley McRae
25 pts.
The Wayside
Independent
 
22
Wild Ponies
23 pts.
Radiant
No Evil Records
JS
23
Hidden Agenda DeLuxe
21 pts.
Pan Alley Fever
Continental
 
 
Left Arm Tan
20 pts.
Lat Lorene
Independent
DH,MF
24
Margo Price
20 pts.
Midwest Farmer's Daughter
Third Man Records
JR
 
The Mystix
20 pts.
Rhythm and Roots
Independent
MP

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