The World Outside
added: 9 Apr 2014
// release date: 14 Apr 2014 // label: Self issued
reviewer: Andy Snipper
Britain today is blessed with a number of utterly unique and original musicians and the current Blues scene is blessed by the musicians that it has spawned – including Mark Harrison.
This is his third album and the characteristics that made his last, ‘The Crooked Smile’, such a joy to listen to and inhabit, are still there but he has refined his songwriting skills and the collection of musicians with him are playing with real joy and passion.
His music is Blues. Old fashioned in many regards, especially the way that he uses original instruments and phrasing, but completely original in his words and the way that the songs are constructed. His themes are as modern as yesterday and as timeless as forever.
The musicians on the album are Harrison’s usual coterie of chums and acquaintances – Will Greener on harmonica, Charles Benfield (Double Bass), Josienne Clark on vocals, Ben Walker plays mandolin, Ed Hopwood drums and Guy Bennett adds some keyboards – but they are used only when the song needs them and no two songs have the same complement of artists so the sound is always fresh and every song has a character and identity of its own – there is no formula.
Opening song ‘Panic Attack’ sets the scene beautifully with Greener honking on harp and the mandolin giving the song a distinctly New Orleans feel and Harrison’s midlands accent bringing the song back home. Harrison plays in his usual finger picking style and delivers a delicious statement on modern day life.
‘Your Second Line’ has been a live favourite for a while now – the second line is the group of musicians and dancers who follow the coffin in New Orleans and the quality of the musicians is determined by your status in the community – and he has captured it brilliantly. His 1934 resonator guitar set against Will Greener’s harp has a lovely rhthm and the harmonies with Josienne are sublime.
Every track has a story and a meaning, every track brings you to a different facet of Harrison’s music but none more than the haunting ‘Not All Right’ with Josienne on lead vocal and her folk phrasing set against Harrison’s Blues resonator really setting the hackles on your neck up – in Harrison’s own words “the world divides into people who do dreadful stuff that they shouldn’t and people who are on the receiving end of that; just because that’s always been the way of things doesn’t mean its OK”.
He sings about things that actually mean something to him – people’s ignorance and the soma generation, loan sharking credit companies, youthful indiscretion and the like – but he does it with style and grace. Harrison never shouts but every word is designed to make a point and you can’t help but smile and enjoy while absorbing some lessons you might rather not ignore.
Person favourites include his autobiographical ‘Long Long Way To Go’ but every track works and he is a joy on record or live.
I urge you to see him live – either on his own or with some of his collection of musicians – he is one of Britain’s quiet gems and deserves to be heard.
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