Based in Belfast, Willow Springs is essentially a vehicle for singer-songwriter Mark Crockard, Urban Ghosts supported by an assortment of fellow Irish musicians, being his debut album. An emerald-coloured Americana cocktail that shakes together Tex-Mex, Western swing and country, it’s an easy on the ear, fairly middle-of-the road affair, but that’s not intended as a criticism. Sometimes, it’s good to be able to just sit back and let an album flow over you without having to work at it. He wears his influences openly, the first number, the moody, twangsome guitar ‘I’m All Over You’, finding him sounding like Roy Orbison in his vocal tone and delivery, while on several occasions, he comes across like an Irish Willie Nelson, notably so on the waltzing piano ballad ‘It Still Hurts’, ‘Tender Lovin’ Feelin’’ and the jazzy roll of ‘Gone Southbound’ with Chris Haigh on fiddle.
Blending balladry with more uptempo numbers, with fine guitar work variously complemented with dobro, mandolin and melodic, Crockard touches on gospel notes the piano-led ‘You Saved A Drowning Man’, blows harmonica on the driving train rhythm shuffle of ‘The End Of The Pier Show’, croons Texicana pop with ‘Heart and Soul’, shades the cowboy ballad ‘Autumn Blues’ with Gaelic fiddle colours and channels Van Morrison for ‘Together We’ll Walk In Beauty’. It might not get him invited to play the trendy Americana joints, but it should ensure a warm welcome in the UK’s many Country Music clubs.
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