MARK MULHOLLAND – Revolutions Go In Circles (Ports of Call Music PCOM2201)

Revolutions Go In CirclesRecorded variously in Bamako, Berlin, New York and France, where he’s now based, over the course of the past few years, Revolutions Go In Circles is, quite literally, world music, both in terms of the geographical locations and also the different influences the Glasgow-born singer-songwriter has embraced on his third album, ranging from folk rock to blues, reggae and Afrobeat. One of the more pervasive touchstones, though, is Dylan, who frequently informs the style and structures of the songs, not to mention in the cadence and nasal tone of Mulholland’s vocals.

He kicks off with the organ swirling Moving On, a travelling musician road song of Celtic folk rock persuasions about hitchhiking through Spain, that namechecks Jack Kerouac, Rimbaud,  and Federico Garcia Lorca, Paul Verlaine, John Steinbeck, W.B.Yeats, Don Quixote and, yes, Dylan. Also written a while back, but this time in Berlin, and recorded in Mali, ‘Filling Up The Silence’ (one of those weary sat alone in a bar killing time songs) features Sean Condron on banjo, Matt de Harp on harmonica with Joe Armstrong and Orit Shimoni providing backing vocals on a gentle train-time jogging slice of  Americana  that is perhaps more indebted to Steve Goodman than Mr Zimmerman.

In distinct contrast,  recorded in Paris with overdubs in Bamako, ‘River Walk’ is briskly shuffling psych desert blues that, alongside electric slide,  features Yacouba Sissoko on African stringed instruments n’goni, taman and karanya giving it a distinctive   groove while the late Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen lays down the infectious percussion behind one of several lyrics musing on where it all went to (“Another day is passing and you wonder what it’s for the truths you took for granted then are certainties no more and now they are falling with the leaves”).

Switching back to a catchy 60s folk rock jangle with de Harp again on harmonica, ‘Getting There’ (“you know you’re going nowhere fast and having such fun getting there”)  is followed in kindred spirit by the Dylanish sway of the reflective  ‘Walk A While’ (“Thinking back on all the friends that I met along the way/The ones I might see down the road and the ones who slipped away”) with its ‘Chimes Of Freedom’ echoes and a chorus that could have come from early bucolic Fairport, the whole thing given a distinctive lustre by Vincent Butcher’s harmonica and glissando kora courtesy of the great Toumani Diabate with Sissoko on calabash.

A nod to his globetrotting lifestyle, the Celtic swayalong  ‘Live Anywhere’ (taken from a line in Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid) is another melodically infectious track, here introducing fiddle and bouzouki into the mix and the vocal more recognisably back to early Dylan, the second half leading off with ‘Your Race Is Almost Run’, another Dylanesque 60s folk rock earworm, here, as the title suggests reflecting on mortality and unfulfilled dreams (“now everybody’s up ahead, you missed the starting gun/you’re still trying to tie your laces but your race is almost run”).

Reminding me of somewhat of Cat Stevens circa ‘Darkness Of The Night’,  the similarly themed ‘Carousel’ (“Chasing after something that always seems to be so near but when you try to catch it, somehow it always disappears/You think you’re going somewhere but you just can’t tell that you’re going round in circles on the carousel”) is more chiming guitars and catchy hooks with Mulholland on electric slide while ‘Head Against The Wall’ is a lazy,  harmonica-embellished jump blues that lyrically returns to the theme of time passing you by as he sings “the future seems so long ago, it just drifted out of sight”, but still putting up a fight , the middle eight dropping in a bottleneck guitar solo and de Harp’s complementary harp.

Opening with Mulholland on strummed mandola, with Sissoko on calabash and shaker and Chris Lastelle on piano,  the metronomic rhythm carpe-diem ‘Silence Falling Slow’ has the feel of woodsmoke curling in the evening sky, the mood abruptly shifting to an African  reggae party groove for ‘On My Way’,  a throwback to his busking days with The Oul’ Bogwarriors From Hell Sissoko on n’goni, Allen on drums with the rhythm duties handled by French-Guyanese bassist Jean-Philippe Dary and a kind of don’t worry be happy message as he sings “you know the only thing that I know that I know  is that I don’t know anything and I don’t know where I’m going but if you meet me on the way don’t you worry about tomorrow don’t hang on to yesterday”.

It end with a traditional American folk song given a Mali makeover, ‘900 Miles’ blending American and African blues with Mulholland on guitar and keys and Bamako musician Baba MD, the first musician he befriended on his arrival in the country, supplying percussion on kamelengoni, calabash and karanya along with keening vocals.

Another of those ironic upsides of the pandemic where enforced time off saw musicians exploring their unpublished back pages (that circle game, eh), it has a freshness and lightness of touch as it dances between the styles while sustaining a distinctive core character that makes you want to play it one revolution after another.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

The first single ‘Moving On’ – official video: