The Mark Harrison Band have just launched their sixth album called The Road to Liberty. I met Mark at Ealing Blues Festival a few years ago where I talked to him after his set. He was charming and patiently chatted to a few of us for quite some time, discussing the beautiful National Resonator guitar he had played on stage.
Mark’s a truly unique talent, passionate about his art and in possession of an ability to cast an amusing eye over life’s ups and downs which helps him create his wry lyrics. The subject matter can be anything from everyday situations to musicians who have inspired him in some way. Mark calls himself a roots artist which would seem like a suitable enough all-encompassing description for his fusion of blues – folk – country and gospel.
This latest album The Road to Liberty is the work of Harrison plus drummer and percussionist Ben Welburn with Charles Benfield on double bass. The album certainly doesn’t stint on content: Part 1 contains 11 songs and Part Two contains 10 songs, with all the material composed by Mark. One of my favourite tracks is Same Roads – musings about time standing still for too long, trying to read a book and being ‘stuck on the first page’ – the lyrics are not just a lockdown lament but rather a reflection on the universal human condition. Such as the thought-provoking Skip’s Song, in which Mark wonders what “rediscovered” blues artist Skip James really thought of his young audiences. These latest songs add up a beautiful and cohesive collection, gentle and understated, revealing a wealth of personal stories.
The songs were recorded fairly swiftly – only taking two or three days, and the resulting freshness and immediacy are palpable. The production qualities (Benfield mixed and mastered the album) exhibit a lightness of touch that make this feel like a live recording; there’s an immediacy and an intimacy. The focus is firmly on the music rather than production wizardry.
The distinctive and expressive artwork is, as on all Mark’s albums, by Andy Hall of We Are Frank.
There’s also a tour about to start, tour dates and tickets below.