To your list of famous Belgians add the name of Mark Somers because if you don’t know about him now you will soon. Mark is a singer and songwriter who plays guitar and bass and seems to place no limitations on his musical imagination. Restless Poetry is his second album and Restless Poetry is a fitting title for this collection of songs. There are two strands to the record: six songs are written by Mark and the rest are settings of poetry by Langston Hughes, of whom more later.
To begin at the beginning, the first two songs are about migration. ‘Refugee’ comes from the migrant questioning his situation: “How can I be illegal on this earth?” while ‘Hordes’ frames the words of the bigot but also tells the unvarnished truth about the immigrants’ role in the world. It’s clever but not comfortable listening because we know it’s true. The third song is ‘Letter To Norma’ and I smiled stupidly as I wondered if it was about Norma Waterson. It is.
The first of the Langston Hughes lyrics is ‘Fascination’. Like many of Langstone works it’s a short poem, barely more than fifty words even with repeats, but Mark expands it with bluesy guitar and harmonica. Hughes was a poet and black activist in the mid twentieth century and most of Mark’s selection come from his early work in the 1920s. Early racial profiling meant that most musical adaptations of his work were jazz or blues based but Mark has necessarily fallen into that groove because, as he says, he can feel the rhythm inherent in the words. ‘Fascination’ uses a blues structure and the final track ‘Gods’ is a full-blown jazz work-out but ‘Empty House’, for example, is heading for prog and ‘Afraid’ uses unaccompanied harmony Mark’s style is so varied as to defy description. There’s brass, encompassing his jazz leanings, but ‘Better’ sees the first appearance of Sekou Dioubaté on kora and percussion taking us off in a new direction and ‘Sweet Turmoil’ has a vaguely middle-eastern feel.
Restless Poetry isn’t the album I was expecting but I’ve enjoyed it immensely. If we can do a little to raise Mark Somers’ profile, I’ll be very pleased.
Artist’s website: www.marksomers.co.uk