ARTIST - MARK NEWMAN
Genre: Blues, Rock
Sounds Like: Rolling Stones, The Black Crows, Marc Ford, Govít Mule and Eric Clapton
The Good: Songwriting, Consistency, Vibe
The Bad: Nothing to report
The Ugly: Nothing to report
The Band:3 out of 5
The Music:4 out of 5
The Songs:4 out of 5
The Vibe: 4 out of 5
The Production: 3 out of 5
The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
The Review:The Europeans continue to celebrate American roots music long after its American shelf life has expired. Heavy metal, classic rock, and blues music are just a few of the genres that European audiences still turn out in droves to see. You can hear their enthusiasm on Mark Newman's new release, an EP entitled Brussels, and their obvious appreciation for his music fuels these six performances. Newman's long apprenticeship playing alongside popular music legends like Sam Moore and Sam the Sham has schooled him in the nuances of songwriting and musicianship alike. However, another quality consistently presents itself on this album. Experience, love, and passion fill his voice, but there are humorous strains as well, and a willingness to let songs possess him as the best singers are willing to do.
"Mean Season" opens things with its impressive jump blues leanings. The song never musters enough tempo to truly qualify as a jump blues, but its mid tempo trot brings it close enough that the resulting tease makes an impact. This sounds like a song teetering on the edge of losing its calm. "Goin' Underground" makes no pretense to keeping calm. This is a rampaging acoustic number that makes up with energy what it otherwise lacks in variety. The lack of variety is never more apparent than on the song's chorus, but Newman's vocal is strong enough, overall, to blur the song's faults.
"Dead Man's Shoes" shows Newman delving deeper than before into the blues tradition and finds an immediate groove. His vocals compete with the dual guitar attack for attention. The song's narrative and vivid images are juicy meat for Newman's vocal power. The slide guitar has a clenched-fist snarl that adds a lot of drama to this already strong song. "So, So Cynical" is a sure crowd pleaser firmly in a long tradition of songs about gold-digging heartbreakers and Newman, proving himself an astute student of the genre, fills the track with the sarcasm common to such songs. His final song, "Must Be a Pony", is an acoustic adaptation of the title track from his 2006 release. The song's success relies on its listeners understanding the deceptively simple joke behind it, but Newman's target audience will likely have no problems.
Brussels has a lot to recommend it, even if it rarely challenges genre conventions. Some may admire its traditional slant and Newman is certainly a strong songwriter and vocalist. He delivers originals and covers alike with the same focus on quality and, most impressively after his long career, you get a sense from this album that he never stops growing as a man or artist.
The Bad: Nothing to report.
The Ugly: Nothing to report.
The Bottom Line: Brussels has a lot to recommend it, even if it rarely challenges genre conventions. Some may admire its traditional slant and Newman is certainly a strong songwriter and vocalist. He delivers originals and covers alike with the same focus on quality and, most impressively after his long career, you get a sense from this album that he never stops growing as a man or artist.
Dale Butcher editedby Markus Druery
Indieshark Music Critic