From Blues To Rembetika neatly encapsulates the two strands of Mark T’s music and his love for both the resonator guitar and the bouzouki although there is rather more of the former than the latter here. Rembetika is an urban music from Greece and Turkey which spawned the bouzouki music of the early 20th century. Mark finds a parallel between the two musics; both coming as they do from the poor communities with their own language and conventions.
The album is topped and tailed by ‘An Old Road’, a short solo instrumental, and immediately dives into the old blues with ‘Worried Life’, co-written by Mississippi Fred McDowell and Mike Cooper, who Mark credits as a big influence on his music. That’s followed by a Mark T original, ‘Going Down The Road’ again in the blues form.
Finally Mark turns to rembetika with two original compositions, ‘Taxim/Shirts Of The Earth’, recorded live at The Troubadour last year. The two tunes employ the opposite ends of the bouzouki’s range to good effect. A taxim is a solo instrumental improvisation, a musical form that Mark has used several times on previous albums.
Four more tracks were recorded live at the Troubadour: Son House’s ‘Death Letter’, Woody Guthrie’s ‘Dust Pneumonia Blues’, ‘Ain’t Going Down The Well No More’ – another original – and Robert Johnson’s ‘Ramblin’’. After the latter Mark returns to rembetika with a long set of original tunes, ‘Erinaki’, featuring Charles Spicer on cor anglaise which really adds a richness to the music. It’s probably my favourite track on the album and just flashes by.
Although the album is generally quite sparse, there are three percussionists helping to drive it along: Iqbal Pathan on tables, Mysterious Bob playing bongos and congas and Fran Wood who also provides backing vocals. Mark’s approach to the blues is pretty authentic – that’s an all-wooden National Triolian on the cover – but I’m not expert enough to judge his rembetika. I just know I enjoy it.
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‘Going Down The Road’ – live: