Mark Cole slides the humour in on Cole

Mark Cole slides the humour in on Cole

Gloucestershire born Mark Cole is a very busy boy…although this is his first solo album, he has been active in the blues world since the early 80s and has performed around the world, appearing with such greats as Pinetop Perkins, Dr. Feelgood, Chris Jagger (Mick’s brother), Roy Wood, Steve Gibbons, Mike D’Abo, Alvin Lee (at the Glastonbury Festival in 1994). With his bands The Dockery Boys, Sons of the Delta, The Jigantics, duo performances with New York-born, Gloucester resident Damon T and Canadians The Myers Brothers, he has released around a dozen albums prior to this solo effort. That is solo in the true sense of the word as he sings, plays guitar, slides, lap steel, harmonica, mandolin, accordion and numerous other known and not so well known instruments. What’s more, he is adept at all of them…so a total smartarse then?! (That is a compliment and illustrates my jealousy) Well, in a word, yes…this album is one of simplicity and skill where Cole takes all kinds of sub-genres of the blues and even includes a Mexican flavoured song for good measure. There are songs filled with humour, soul, sadness, love, tragedy and even a plea to save the live venues around the country.
Opening track, Solitary, has a clever guitar intro and then reveals a voice of clarity and expression and has the benefit of Anna Howard bringing harmony to the chorus. It is a catchy song with a lilting melody and then the solo is one of restraint and taste, albeit a bit short for my guitar mad bias. Desiccate Me Baby is a swampy blues with harp punctuating a dirty, simple riff. I love the lyrics on this too: “Desiccate me baby, then drown me in your love” paints so many pictures in my vicarious mind. No solo this time, but a totally enthralling song means even I forgive him. Love Will Make You Blind has a jazzy backing to another lilting lyric with fascinating instrumentation throughout. Bon Ton Boy is pure blues with electric guitar and stomping as Mark confuses with the lyrics…Bon Ton Boy could mean he used to wear designer French children’s clothes, but then he’s eating rice and beans in New Orleans, so I cannot fathom this one. Regardless, it is an almost a guitar exhibition which has lyrics over it and is a delight. Let Me down is, quite simply, brilliant! It reminds me of some of Ry Cooder’s finest work as the banjo adds layers of sound above various percussive instruments and then a harp solo that will send shivers through you. Water Will Rise is apocalyptic in its assessment of impending doom courtesy of man’s interference and the increase in flooding around the world. Opening with suitable sound effects before a delicious slide guitar controls the whole song on top of a clever bass line and even a ‘thumb piano’ (like a Marimba) plinking occasionally. The next song, Misprint Formica, just shouldn’t work…it has out of tune and purposely down-tuned guitars and banjo-backed with a Turkish Saz (or Baglama; a sort of Turkish lute). The lyrics are strange, to say the least but, as I am the sort of person that sees patterns in everything, including Formica (or floor tiles, or wallpaper etc.) it kind of makes perfect sense to me. It is the instruments that are the stars, however: I love the discordant yet musical cacophony that should be dreadful but is sheer genius. Honeyslide starts with an American voiceover explaining the place of a drone in the hive. Although I have another interpretation in my twisted mind…whatever, this is yet another complex and enjoyable structured blues. Hidden away in the music is a fascinating variation on the banjo…the Turkish cümbüş needs listening out for in the background but it contributes to the overall sound. Banus Rain is the least engaging of all of the tracks with its Mexican flavour in a ballad format as it seems to relate a story of watching rich people getting wet in Spain! The lap steel is worth listening too, however, as Mark uses it to sing without overdoing the slide and turning it Hawaiian as too many players do. Out On A Saturday Night implores people to stop being “hypnotised by some talent show” and to “find your venue and give it all the support it needs”. It name-checks the Du Drop Inn which, I guess comes from Mark’s time in Canada as this pub is in St Albans in Newfoundland as opposed to the one in Hertfordshire. An apposite sentiment as we see our choice of live music become restricted as the smaller venues close. It is another great slide backing on the electric guitar and drums. The slide throughout is brilliant and the blues grounding gives it a great feel. The final track, Had Our Day, is Mark playing an absurdly simple yet effective guitar with the harp weeping across the song when necessary. The sad tale of a breakup set to this musical palette is riveting.
This an album of pure pleasure with many and varied techniques and blues interpretations. Repeated listens reveal more depth and insight than is apparent first time around as the sparse instrumentation actually benefits the overall experience.
If you like non-standard blues with a lyrical musical punch, you will not be disappointed.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

1. Solitary
2. Desiccate Me Baby
3. Love Will Make You Blind
4. Bon Ton Boy
5. Let Me Down
6. Water Will Rise
7. Misprint Formica
8. Honeyslide
9. Banus Rain
10. Out On A Saturday Night
11. Had Our Day

Mark Cole: Vocals, Guitars, bass, keyboards, harmonica, drums, stompbox, washtub bass, banjo, thumb piano, Turkish saz, mellotron, Turkish cumbus, mandolin, lap steel, percussion (told you…smartarse!)
Anna Howard: backing vocals
Omar Hakim: drums
Reuben Rogers: bass
Celso Alberti: drums
Elvis Gannet: drums

Recorded at MCLR, Gloucester

Mark Cole slides the humour in on Cole

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