EP REVIEW: Mark Gothard - The Poet
By: Cyrus Rhodes
Genre: Americana, Folk, R&B,
Sounds Like: Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, R.E.M
The CD kicks off with “Timbuktu” an slow moving ditty that serves up steady rock beat reminiscent of vintage Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan complete with a rockabilly type guitars, soothing melodies and well placed harmonies. Track 2 “Painted Stars” is a just a breath away from being a country track but manages to stay left of the line the entire time with it’s driving rock rhythm and timeless Americana groove and impressive guitar ambience. Track 3 “Pocket Change” keep thing s moving with its methodical musical build, heart felt vocals and grand slam chorus that flows and ebbs it’s way through to emotional fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty and even R.E.M. The actual musical format is very intimate, up close: a personal snapshot of the artist. The songs themselves are very naked and personal with messages revealing the highs and lows of life, love, passion and do I dare say life’s observations. Overall the catalogue is upbeat, methodical, providing a brilliant perspective on life. Besides the voice and the acoustic guitar you will also notice brief splashes of Celtic type overtones, Organ, Piano, Pedal Steel, well placed rhythm and solo guitar built upon an impressive rhythmic foundation. Lyrical content is extremely revealing and thought provoking. All songs cut deep to the core and its obvious Gothard is also a very capable songwriter. From striking “Perfectly Imperfect” and compelling “Bless the End” to heartfelt “Miles Away” to grooving “Jesse James” and “Here in Memphis” to rocking “Smoke” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 10 “Let’s Take a Ride’ the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
It’s fair to say Gothard doesn’t have the greatest voice in the world. Over time his widely spaced vibrato and repetitive baritone will take its toll on the listener. I also noticed a lack of vocal harmonies throughout the CD. This would have added more vocal variety to the catalogue. Zeroing now on the liner notes: there is no mention of any of the session players or engineers (Recording, Mixing, Mastering) involved in the project. This is a bit unorthodox and not typical of a Gold Standard release. This leads me to suspect that the CD was not mixed or mastered by Industry standard professionals. At the end of the day mix is a bit all over the place and lacks continuity track to track. It takes skill and engineering savvy to record, mix, and master a musical production to industry standards these days. The impact this will have on its overall sound cannot be overstated. If this was 1980 this would be a cutting edge musical production, unfortunately its 2012, so the bar is set really high for independent artists like Gothard. It’s safe to say the catalogue is a bit dated and repetitive sounding as well. All songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. I fully realize this is a subjective art form but many of the aforementioned issues do affect the CD’s overall marketability.
Mark Gothard will work best on days you want a delicate acoustic sound to fill your atmosphere. Its strong suit is it’s overall consistency, lyrical wisdom and bold straightforwardness. Make no bones about it folks; It took raw honesty to write and perform some of these songs. What I like most about Gothard is there is no attempt to hide how he feels, or sugar coat the truth. I really admire artists out there who are themselves and just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to the artist that has the courage to show us something real and genuine beneath their veil of vanity. Mark Gothard is one of those artists.