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Samuel Markus and the Only Ones - New Dawn

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 1 / 3 / 2009

Samuel Markus and the Only Ones - New Dawn
Label: Yatra Records
Format: CD


Remarkable Americana on debut album from Californian-based, but Canadian-born singer-songwriter Samuel Markus and his band the Only Ones, which despite swooping through a variety of genres and styles, comes across as surprisingly cohesive

There’s a bit of a resurgence in folk-influenced songwriting at the moment, of which Samuel Markus is well placed to take advantage. The Canadian-born Californian’s debut album takes its influences firstly from American folk music but in truth the 13 tracks travel the length and breadth of the USA to take in everything from 1920s Chicago speakeasies to the 1960s in Greenwich Village cafes, via the Mississippi Delta and the beaches of California. Opening track 'Rosa' is probably the most west-coast of all the tracks here – it even references the Interstate 405, which tracks the coastline down into California. Although it’s already popular among fans its conventional rock feel makes it probably the least interesting track on the album. 'Another Way', like 'Suzanne', is a low-key folky song in the modern American songwriting tradition. Both are pleasant and light and form a good balance to the expeditions the rest of the album takes. 'New Dawn' is a jaunty, devilish number that evokes the mystical South of the Delta and of New Orleans. There’s more than a touch of Screaming Jay Hawkins in this track, something that can be said of far too few records nowadays. 'Miles Away' and 'Deeper Well' are bluesy country songs, with world-weary lyrics – “I got no time to sit and think about the past/My poor mind, it’s always moving far too fast/I’m burning up, I’m turning into ash/I’m miles away and I’m never looking back” – that would suit a songwriter with more heaped on his shoulders than you might expect of someone in his twenties. 'Jitterbug', which follows 'Miles Away', is a remarkable song that wouldn’t be out of place in a prohibition-era drinking den, particularly when the honky-tonk piano bites. 'East End of the Bay', meanwhile, takes the listener back to California with the very LA-influenced mantra of “if you can’t find romance you’d better find a temple where you can play”. 'The Offering', towards the end of 'New Dawn', and 'What’s On Your Mind', towards the beginning, are the most Dylan-esque tracks on the album. That said, both defiantly avoid falling into being copies of the big D. 'The Offering', particularly, channels Jeff Buckley and Tom Waits as well, to create something entirely new and hauntingly beautiful. Closing track 'Something Else' is a surprisingly downbeat song of regret. “It seems you’d like me to go/Well sometimes it’s a misunderstanding, babe” Markus croaks in a whisper. 'New Dawn' is a remarkable ride, seen through one man’s vision, that takes in an entire country in one swoop. It dives and soars, picking out influences as it goes. It might seem as though that would make it confusing and disorienting but Markus’s impressive songwriting binds the whole thing together tightly. Markus may have been born in Canada, but Americana, a much maligned term, doesn’t get much better, or more American, than this.

Track Listing:-
1 Rosa
2 Another Way
3 New Dawn
4 What's On Your Mind Babe
5 Suzanne
6 Miles Away
7 Jitterbug
8 Deeper Well
9 East End Of The Bay
10 One Door Land
11 The Only One
12 The Offering
13 Something Else

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