Signature 2014

, Mark Erelli’s seventh album, captures blue-collar America in ways not heard since early John Gorka and John Cougar Mellencamp. You’ll also hear echoes of fellow Boston-area songwriters. On “Baltimore” he rocks out and hits high notes reminiscent of Ellis Paul, while “Man of the Family” has the gospel-meets-urban-reality feel of Vance Gilbert. Erelli might be evocative, but he’s never derivative. Both “Hope Dies Last” and “Five Beer Moon” are masterful probes of how Everyman rockets between deep cynicism and cautious optimism. “Shadowland” and “Volunteers” are worthy additions to the ever-growing Iraq-as-worthless-sinkhole oeuvre. Heavy yields to soft on “Once,” a melodic take on how love happens when we feel it instead of analyzing it. Good messages—just call this a great album and enjoy.


Searching for Americana

‘Round My Door
Threshold 089

The “Americana” label is often appropriated by those who think “folk” isn’t commercially viable, or don’t want to be associated with the right-wing ├╝ber nationalism of “Country.” Done properly, though, Americana evokes the American character through nostalgic looks at the rural past, common man tropes, and regional diversity. To hear it at its best, check out ‘Round My Door. From the opening reinterpretation of “Pastures of Plenty” to the concluding grunge-on-the-rails “Hell on Wheels,” Dana and Sue Robinson introduce us to farmers, hobos, and workaday folk in the Appalachians, across the prairie, and up to Spokane. Dana’s warm voice, poetic lyrics, and solid guitar work blend perfectly with Sue’s claw hammer banjo, piano, and vocal harmonies. Under any category this is one of the year’s finest releases.