Friday, August 28, 2009

Reviews:: Carolyn Mark & NQ Arbuckle Let's Just Stay Here

I think I’ve always like the idea of Carolyn Mark more than I’ve actually liked her output. I know that back handed compliment would make McEnroe proud and infuriate her fans (and her maybe). It’s impossible to not acknowledge or recognize her talent, but I never found her previous releases something I could sink my teeth into. Her beautiful, slightly husked voice and melancholic alt-country tunes always sound good to me on a casual listen, I just never really gravitated back for multiple listens.

Let’s Just Stay Here changes all that.

Pairing up with NQ Arbuckle and his band, Mark and Neville Quinlan shared song writing duties (six for Carolyn and three from NQ along with three covers) on this stellar LP, and the extra muscle vibes perfectly with NQ’s more raucous styling to help Carolyn find a bigger audience. The record starts with a burn, not a bang on All Time Low. Mark’s vocals are reminiscent of her Corn Sisters partner Neko Case but the smolder of the heavy guitar, steel work and backing vocals cloud the tail in darkness. I know it's just one song, but from the start she lets you know that this collection of songs won’t just float by like a gentle breeze. The trend continues when the band let loose on Downtime, When I Come Back and Canada Day Off-Toronto and cranks up the amps. It’s exactly the energy that I often felt was missing from some of Mark’s past efforts and really refreshes the listen.

Naturally, she brings heartbreak (if you don’t get a bit hurt by the gritty, piano laced beauty of The 2nd Time when she asks, “how can the second time be an accident” your soul might be hardened beyond repair) but the band also offers up glimmers of hope. Playful ditties like Let’s Just Stay Here or the mandolin heavy - courtesy of Corb Lund – ditty Itchy Feet stand proudly alongside their terrific take on the Justin Rutledge track, Too Sober To Sleep and makes this a record you can listen to regardless of mood.

I must say thought, the most exciting moments are when the duo moves more towards the pop side of the equation and let their seamless vocal interplay dominate the songs. There are breathtaking moments (like the sparkling piano ballad, Officer Down or when NQ takes the lead on the lonely road ready Saskatoon Tonight and it evolves into beautiful harmonies) that make you feel like NQ and Marks have the potential to evolve into a Can-country version of Nicks and Buckingham.

I know you will read that as hyperbole, but Let’s Just Stay Here is full of songs for the soul. Ms. Mark proves that she deserves the attention I seemed so reluctant to give her in the past. Plus, she’s a terrific cook with a couple books on how to become the host(ess) with the most. Good music. Good food. All she needs to offer up is good friends and cold beer and I might be in heaven.

MP3:: All Time Low

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Posted at 8:22 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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