MARK HARRISON – Turpentine (own label)

TurpentineI love melodic finger-picking, resonator and slide guitar so it should come as no surprise that I really like Turpentine. I hadn’t encountered Mark Harrison before he got in touch with us, and I’m very glad he did. This is his fifth album, I think, and he’s usually referred to as a bluesman although that rather understates what he does – he’s also a very fine songwriter.

At first hearing the songs collected here seem light – you can turn up the volume, admire the musicianship and kick back but they have an underlying power that can’t be overlooked. The opener, ‘Black Dog Moan’ opens with the lines “I’ve got a girl in Meadowland and I really love the bits of her I can stand” and if that doesn’t suck you in there is very little I can do for you. Add a really catchy chorus and you have a song that should go around the world. ‘So Many Bad People (Out There)’ and ‘Fade Away’ have a contemporary resonance – “Why’s the whole damn thing gone wrong?”, he asks. That’s what we’re all asking. I particularly like ‘Hardware Store’, a song for all of us who don’t really fit in.

Other songs are rooted in the past. ‘The Treaty Of Dancing Rabbit Creek’ is based on a moment of infamy in US history (what, another) in which the government conned the Choctaw out of their ancestral lands. The Choctaw’s principal negotiator wound up in the US Senate; there are always parallels. ‘Next Of Kin’, a traditional blues format is set in the deep south and recounts the situation of black people who were not full citizens. Finally ‘Shake The House’ comes from the juke joints and speakeasies and features Cajun-style accordion from Paul Tkachenko. Also supporting Mark are double bass player Charles Benfield and drummer and mouth-harp blower Ed Hopwood.

Mark’s band is tight and loose at the same time; no-one is trying to be a star and you can sense the understanding between the players. Yes, I really like this record.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘Black Dog Moan’ – Mark and the band live: