By Mike O’Cull www.mikeocull.com
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Mark Newman displays a masterful grasp of American music styles on his recent release Empirical Truth. Based in New York, Newman has forged a smashing original sound that deftly blends blues, Americana, and pop influences with his own high-level skills on slide guitar, dobro, lap steel, and mandolin, lead vocals, and lyric writing. He’s well-known as a sideman and a solo artist and has worked with legends including Sam Moore (Sam & Dave), Jim McCarty (The Yardbirds), Willy DeVille (Mink DeVille), Sam The Sham, and Bobby Whitlock (Derek and the Dominos). He has also shared bills with John Oates, Sting, Elvis Costello, Travis Tritt, Delbert McClinton, Les Dudek, The Doobie Brothers, Don Felder of The Eagles, David Bromberg, and many others. Empirical Truth is a transcendent effort that shows Newman to be the artistic peer of anyone you’d care to name from your record collection and deserves to be heard by a worldwide audience.
From the opening moments of the first track “Scapegoat,” Newman swings for the fences and delivers a revved-up tale of street trouble happening to an innocent man. The song sits on an aggressive shuffle pocket that’s instantly attractive and gives Newman all the space he needs to be both a storyteller and a guitar slinger at the same time. His slide playing is sweet, lowdown, and perfectly fits the vibe of this cut.
The swampy, mid-tempo “Mississippi Mile” is a compelling song about a lost, roaming soul trying to find love and a safe place in our often insane society. Newman’s guitar work here is throaty and compelling, adding an amazing layer of texture between the band and his lyrics.
“When I Aim My Gun” is a moody, acoustic-tinged minor key statement that articulates Newman’s ideas on the eternal gun debate in the USA and the people involved in it. It’s a powerful and frightening song that demands several close listening sessions. Newman isn’t afraid to speak his piece and ruffle some feathers in the way a proper artist should and proves without a doubt that he’s much more than just another hot guitarist.
“One More Song About A Highway” is a big blast of train-beat uptempo country that talks about the life of a truck-driving man. Newman’s originality is in full bloom here, taking control of and reinventing a genre staple into a wonderfully energetic track that’ll definitely get you a speeding ticket. The entire album kicks major backside, so be sure to hang out for deep-cut gems like “Pipeline,” “Everything You Know,” and the closing cut “Lycanthropy.” Mark Newman is a towering talent who can spin stories and cross styles as well as anyone you’ve ever heard. He should be a whole lot more famous than he is, so start listening to Empirical Truth and spreading the word. Highly recommended.
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