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Carolyn Mark - Just Married: An Album Of Duets

  by Andrew Carver

published: 8 / 8 / 2005

Carolyn Mark - Just Married: An Album Of Duets
Label: Mint Records
Format: CD


Impressively broad duets album from Canadian singer-songwriter Carolyn Mark, which finds her sharing vocals with a wide range of local stars, and which will appeal "to anyone who's a fan of undeground country"

Carolyn Mark has a smoky honk of a voice and a wit that varies from sly to raucous as the occasion warrants. Outside Canada, she’s probably best known for her frequent work with Neko Case, particularly as the Corn Sisters. Though the album deals with men and women who alternate between loving, leaving and left, there’s a fair amount of musical variety thanks to a mixed bag of duet partners. The album starts strongly, with Toronto’s NQ Arbuckle, who known for their raucous country rock hybrid turn in a slow burning song called 'Fireworks' (penned by one of Mark’s friends, John McLaughlin). The ramshackle Peterborough folk orchestra the Silver Hearts shed four members (down to a mere eight) for a stumbling, waltzing original 'North County Fair', where Mark enquires as to the whereabouts of the song’s subject. 'Rocket Piano Man' blends Elton John ('Rocket Man'), David Bowie ('Space Oddity') and Billy Joel (even if I could identify the song, I’d refuse to admit it!) with new lyrics: “Ground Control to Elton John, I hope you have your platforms on!” Amy Honey of Vancouver’s fuzzy garage poppers Clover Honey chips in some vocals and spacey guitar. Next comes 'It’s All Just a Matter of (Where You Draw The Line).' If one wanted to run with the sexy interpretation, you would say it was about a woman who figures she’s staying true to her out-of-town man because she’s sleeping with another woman instead of a man. Since well-known oddball accordion savant Geoff Berner is her duet partner, the most perverted interpretation is likely the correct one. The most straight forward tune is a version of Nat Stuckey’s 'Sweet Thang' recorded with honest to-goodness cowboy Corb Lund. The funniest tune is 'Done Something Wrong' co-written and sung with Ford Pier, a well-known Canadian musician who travels on the one hand in country circles with Mark and Case, and on the other with punk giants like DOA and NoMeansNo. It’s an energetic and funny tune with a back-and-forth fusillade of allegations between jealous lovers Pier and Mark. Next up is a friendly lope through 1940's TV cowboy Pee-Wee King’s 'Slow Poke' with Nathan Tinkham, who has recorded with mainstream Canadian country acts like Ian Tyson. A luminous version of 'The Happy Bluebird Sings' is one of the albums best tunes, with lovely harmonies from Bryce Janssens of Saskatchewan indie-rockers the Fine Options, who also wrote the tune. What the Options - a bunch of alt-rockers responsible for a song called 'Talking Baliwood Samurai Ninja Massacre' and more often seen in the company of, say, Hot Hot Heat - are doing being all purty and western-like is something to wonder at, but they sound so nice one can’t complain. 'Colour of Love' sounds like a real Nashville country tune, thanks to some hot guitar picking and some gravelly vocals from showman Dave Lang. Hank Williams’ well-worn 'I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry' gets a run through with help from Winnipeg’s Luke Doucet. 'Don’t Come Over Baby' is smoky bar room country, a Mark original performed with honking brass and piano whose signature line is “Please don’t answer baby when I call you on the phone.” Its cheerful tone belies its repeated invocations to stay away. The next two songs feature female duet partners 'Go Figure', written and performed with Kristen Harrison, and Gordon Lightfoot’s 'I’ll Be All Right'. The latter of which is performed with Robyn Carrigan of California country-loving B.C. band Bottleneck sounds more like a Simon and Garfunkel tune than ever. The last track, 'Claxton’s Lament', recorded with Frog Eyes’ Carey Mercer is predictably off-kilter though Mercer turns down his usual frenetic vocals for a stressed, end-of-his-rope feel. The song sounds not unlike a Reverend Glasseye song. With a slew of fine vocal performances and pleasing width and breath, this certainly is a must have for fans of female-fronted alt country and is recommended for almost anyone who’s a fan of underground country.

Track Listing:-
1 Fireworks
2 North Country Fair
3 Rocket Piano Man
4 It's All Just A Matter Of (Where You Draw The Line)
5 Sweet Thing
6 Done Something Wrong
7 Slow Poke
8 The Happy Bluebird Sings
9 The Colour Of Love
10 I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
11 Don't Come Over Baby
12 Go Figure
13 I'll Be All Right
14 Claxton's Lament

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