Since issuing the rave-up Blood and Treasure (here), Paul Mark has headed for solo pastures, tracing his roots out far more definitively than has previously been the case. Because Mark has more than a little of the multi-artist in him, an aesthete often hiding in earlier hell-raising tones, his choices in graphics have always been striking, often subtly so, as in the cover photo for Blood, a masterful snap of trompe l'oeil and the true-to-life making cross-statements that force eye and brain to stop in their tracks. Mirage Cartography switches gears and, in a very cool tri-fold package, sports a brilliant fantasia painting by Chris Buzelli, who's very much in the Todd Schorr / Mark Ryden vein. The graphic artist painted the canvas while listening to this disc and in December won the Society of Illustrators' 53rd much-coveted annual gold medal. Not a bad start, hm?
Ah, but the music! It's most definitely not in the ball park with past ensemble releases, nor even standing in the parking lot, but rather far away in the ruralia so favored of John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and, to a more angular version, Toulouse Engelhardt, even some Kelley Joe Phelps. Except for one cut, what walks out from the speakers is Paul Mark and nothing but Paul Mark, and the lad, it turns out, is a wheatfield bohemian. This baker's dozen of acoustic instrumentals purveys an exposition of modernized heartland refrains, Rail Yard a particularly cogent illustration of the refinement required, blending Ry Cooder and John Cipollina with the mellow-siding of Peter Green.
The deceptive Blackbird base of Kings Counsel leads to an elegantly Romantic sonata sans movements (they're internalized and only two show up, arguably just one—but, hey, even Wikipedia admits the form has historically been "vague", so why kick tradition?) while Bug Jar has a hick funk to it that sits solidly in with some of Kottke's best odd inventions, and "Circus in Rome" sports a gentle swing completely atypical of, say, the Praetorians connoted. Perhaps the best descriptive of Mirage Cartography would be to just say that it's close to CandyRat label material purely as a museum piece of what the acoustic guitar was invented for while also a tasty entree of our continent's staples from days long gone but wistfully remembered.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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