Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Carolyn Mark: "The Queen Of Vancouver Island" (album review)

I firmly believe country music is best when it's played honestly and with having fun in mind.  You always get that with B.C.'s Carolyn Mark, and her eighth album The Queen of Vancouver Island (out September 18th) is no exception.

There's a rich, powerful quality to Mark's voice.  Much like her occasional singing partner Neko Case, she can easily handle a wide range of emotions, be they tender, wrenching, defiant, or playful.  Her voice conveys the tone of her lyrics magnificently.

The album opens with the twangy crooner "Poor Farmers", giving Mark a change to show off her pipes.  She takes an even more introspective angle on "Old Whores".

When the tempo picks up Mark truly shines.  A harmonica and steel guitar frolic throughout the title track.  A great country guitar riff highlights "Best Friend".  Catchy country numbers "Not Like the Movies" and "Baby Goats" could be radio hits.

Not afraid of adding some flourishes, Mark's "Mellie's Book" is a rising and falling number pumped up by a barroom-worthy piano.  Even a trumpet is used to lead the way out of the hook-filled "Flaming Star".

Mark has a keen sense of humour that helps make these tracks fun to listen to.  It makes them fun to perform as well.  That shines through on the cheeky "Nobody('s Perfect)" or the bubbly, teasing "The Cereal Is the Prize".  All you need to know about the country cabaret number "You're Not a Whore (If No One's Paying)" is the title...and that it includes a gargled verse.

For all that she brings to the table and all of the entertaining, quality work she has done, it is a wonder that Carolyn Mark isn't a massive name on the Canadian and international stage.

Best tracks: "The Cereal Is the Prize", "Nobody('s Perfect)"

Track listing for The Queen Of Vancouver Island:
  • Poor Farmers
  • The Queen of Vancouver Island
  • Baby Goats
  • Not Talk
  • Best Friend
  • Flaming Star
  • Nobody('s Perfect)
  • Mellie's Book
  • Not Like the Movies
  • The Cereal Is the Prize
  • Old Whores
  • You're Not a Whore (If No One's Paying)

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