Album review by Vince Leigh
A wealth of sensibilty and storytelling.
It seems fitting that Mark Thomann’s new album has an accompanying narrative. The record has taken three years to put together—while Mark was in self-imposed isolation and recovering from heart failure.
If that’s not enough to sharpen your observational focus, I don’t know what is.
Mark has been playing and writing country/blues/roots songs for 50 years and is particularly drawn to the songwriting style of the ‘60s and ‘70s, merging that sensibility with storytelling relevant to today’s issues.
And there is no shortage of contemporary honed narratives on Plastic Flowers. There’s drought and uncertainty as featured on Seven Long Years, or the trials of ageing on Never Too Old.
But amid the wry asides and recountals, Mark’s laid-back vocal style manages to impart broad notions of love, too. He creates a level of down-home intimacy, casually inviting and offering an unfiltered, unaffected country-imbued blues musical experience.
A varied mood with plenty of nostalgia.
Across the ten-song listing, the mood varies. From songs utilising four-wheel-drives (Bush Rocket) to bursts of nostalgia replete with exuberant fiddle work (Where’s Summer Gone?).
But this mood varies ever so slightly; the tone is unfailingly governed by Mark’s genial yet disarmingly self-assured vocals. Mark’s conjured landscape is enriched by an assortment of renowned local musicians, their abilities and choices adding suitable taste and weight to the good-tempered and quite tender-hearted charm traversing the terrain.
Undoubtedly, it is Mark’s lyric writing faculties that serve as the unifying force behind the tracks on Plastic Flowers. It is a seemingly effortless series of narratives that issue a solemn kind of subtle energy through brevity, detail, and to a surprising degree, humour. To whit/wit, Mark intones on Ain’t No Way:
It ain’t a way to make a living
But a pretty good way to live
Plastic Flowers might be primarily for country and blues fans, with the album containing generous doses of the more traditional forms. But this is fused with the less-so. It is for those curious about such a genre, generated and delivered through a familiar and candid lens.
You can listen to this album on Spotify or Apple Music