Capturing the true flavor of an artist's performance on a live album is always a risky venture for such a release so early on in ones career, moreover to repeat not one song but three on the same collection is either brave or down right daft.
Thankfully Mark Mckay has been brave enough with "Live from the Memory Hall" to grant fans and allow newcomers a perspective to two side of his compositions on the one disc. Recorded over a number of shows at Jammin' Java, Vienna, with guest Kris Delmhorst,on the acoustic aspect of the album and folk rockers June Star beefing out on the electric versions.
'Memory Hall' opens with the bitterseet ballad 'Nashville' from his second CD, it's a bittersweet tale of abandoned love, with sublime accompanying vocals and fantastic fiddle from Kris Delmhorst making this the more effective version of the two on the album. 'Constantine Gardens' on the other hand benefits greatly from the full band, sounding like an early Son Volt track. The opening to 'Mercedes', a lighter feeling track, has some fine blues playing from Mark on this solo acoustic track about materialism and happiness. The more folk-tinged 'Long Lost Louise' again shows great chemistry between Mark and Kris with the studio recorded version of 'Louise' closing the CD, bringing in a folkier feel reminiscent in Richard and Linda Thomson produced in there day.
Flicking the switch to some power on 'Moonshiner' with Vince Malone's heartbreaking pedal steel, on the sorrowful tale of the downward spiral into alcohol excesses. As good as Uncle Tupelo's version fine rendition. Folk rockers June Star get in behind and bring up the tempo. Rockin out as good as any band out there on One Day and Ninety Miles reminding me of the Old 97's fronted by Alejandro Escovedo. The always popular Springsteen's 'Atlantic City' is given a fine outing with Andrew Grimm's soaring lead guitar, and Mark's vocals full of rage and despondency.
I'm not to sure who this CD is aimed at, for those fans already converted to this fine singer through his other studio albums, it lets them hear both his quieter side and his rockin' ability. Those who are new to his abilities may feel a bit short changed on the duplicated songs. I most certainly will be checking out his studio albums on the strength of this accomplished live set as I can't seem to get 'Nashville' out of my head.
Mark McKay - Ready for the Show promo(www.drenrecords.com or www.jarkmckaylive.com)
A fine teaser to Mark's latest album comes in the form a three track promo EP called "Ready for the Show" . It's a solid introduction to the Eric Amble (Del Lords,The Yayhoos and Steve Earle) produced album "Shimmer". The first track 'Rain ((Like a Hallelujah)', has great roots-rock feel, sounding very like a more melodic Jon Dee Graham at his best, with some great guitar work from all involved. A big change of feel on the Silver Jews indie-rock influenced track 'Ready for the Show'. I like an artist brave enough to change not just tempo, but feel and if you will,the genre on an album. The last but in my opinion the best track is the haunting melancholic 'Nashville', Marks somber vocals tell the tale of breaking hearts and abandonment. Fantastic stuff!!