Mark Brown “Happy Hour”

Independent, 2024

A collection of fourteen songs covering  a lot of ground musically and lyrically.

Album art for "Happy Hour" by Mark BrownMark Brown is one of many working performers whose music falls under the americana category. Ploughing a furrow of self-released records, working with a group of close friends and playing shows when they can, these artists operate at or below the subsistence level of the genre while never quite attracting the audiences or the sales to make it to the next level. In some ways the internet provides a window for them to display their wares to the world and reach a global audience.

Brown hails from North Carolina but has been resident in New York state for many years.  “Happy Hour” is his latest record and his frst for several years.  On it he is accompanied by his band of long-time friends, Ken McGloin (guitar), Mark Murphy (bass), Dean Sharp (drums) and Dean Jones (keyboards, banjo).  They are joined by Dakota Holden on pedal steel and Katie Mullins on vocals.

Brown’s early influences included Johnny Cash and Tom Waits and their inspiration can be heard in several places on “Happy Hour”.  That said across its 14 tracks and 38 minute, Brown’s album covers a lot of musical ground- one song ‘Gasoline Hands’ comes close to steel band territory.  The opener, ‘Scratch’, starts out sounding like Giant Sand before taking a left turn into a sound reminiscent of Talking Heads.

Lyrically, the songs touch on the experiences of Brown’s life.  The second track ‘Davenport’ (it’s a type of sofa)  explores the etiquette of furniture placement either side of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Later on, ‘Deer Cut And Wrapped’ takes on the subject of how to butcher newly killed deer.

There are intimate, emotional songs, there are rockers and running through it all are Brown’s nicely observed (or created) stories.  The underlying influences seep through and several times there are moments when you stretch for the song it reminds you of.   Overall though, “Happy Hour” doesn’t pull in the listener’s attention sufficiently to differentiate it from the large number of similar sounding releases.

6/10
6/10

About Richard Parkinson 144 Articles
London based self-diagnosed music junkie with tastes extending to all points of big tent americana and beyond. Fan of acts and songs rather than genres.
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