Reviews

Mark Erelli’s Blindsided


By Brian Rock

Folk troubadour Mark Erelli wrestles with life’s unexpected twists and turns on his tenth release, Blindsided. On past projects the mercurial Erelli has explored Folk, Country, Singer/Songwriter and even some Western Swing. On this outing he adds a little AAA Rock flavor to the mix. The resulting effort plays like a John Hiatt, Tom Petty duets album.

The title song sets the mood and tone for the album. A Hammond organ chord hangs ominously in the background as piano and bass propel the song forward. Erelli breaks in with a slinky, bluesy A.J. Croce voice singing, “I was walking down the street, minding my business. Never saw it coming, God as my witness.” And as the title implies, he was blindsided by love. But there’s a catch, as he sings, “Love can set you free or love can be your prison. My mama tried to warn me, but I wouldn’t listen.  She said, ‘You can try to keep your heart protected, but it will still creep up when you least expect it’.” Although he never fully reveals which type of love has stricken him, he does make the point that you don’t get to choose. When your heart decides, all that’s left if for your mind to try to catch up.

But what about those times when our heart and mind aren’t reconciled? Erelli has a few thoughts on that as well. On the mellifluous, “A Little Kindness,” he suggests that when you’re not sure what to do, just give a little kindness. On the tender, “Lost In Translation,” he suggests clarifying that murky mental/emotional divide by opening the channels of communication. In his poetic style, he explains: “Don’t send me a sign, or make me read ‘tween the lines. Scream and shout, don’t leave any doubt. Come on out and tell me what you’re saying. Don’t let this love get lost in translation.” And if we can follow that advice, perhaps we can reach that gospel organ-tinged, mind/heart synchronization where we never have to “Doubt My Love.”

Having established his cred as a first-rate lyricist, he moves into second gear musically with the Tom Petty inspired, “Can’t Stand Myself.”  It is the most rousing, uptempo tune on the album. With crunchy guitar hooks, and blistering harmonica, Erelli gives a snarling confession that “I can’t stand myself when I let you down.” “Her Town Now” and “The River Always Wins” are worthy “Damn the Torpedoes” and “Wildflowers” era (respectively) Tom Petty tributes as well.

Erelli adds a little musical diversity with the soulful, “Stranger’s Eyes,” and the atmospheric, “The Western Veil.” And when all is said and done, if you still haven’t recovered from being blindsided by love and life; the last resort is to look back on your life through a, “Rose Colored Rearview.” Erelli’s touching power ballad is a longing look at simpler times when neighbors actually knew each other and “community” meant your people, more than your place. No matter how much life changes, those precious memories stay the same.

In these uncertain times, we’re all bound to be blindsided one way or another. The best we can do is cultivate a set of values that can help us navigate when life blows us off course. Luckily Mark Erelli lays down some good guidelines for those values: be kind to yourself and others, communicate openly and honestly, and follow your heart. It’s good advice worth hearing, and his music and poetic lyrics make it worth hearing again and again.

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Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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