Mark Growden - Lose Me In The Sand
2011, Porto Franco Records
Mark Growden grew up in a logging town in the rural mountains of California. His earliest musical memories are of the sort of American roots music cultivated through hard work, complex problems and simple pleasures. Growden is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter who was shaped by this pioneering spirit and for his latest album has chosen to commemorate his roots. Growden's Lost Me In The Sand features the banjo as the lead instrumental voice, recalling the essence of poverty, resilience and fortitude across ten songs that speak to heart of America's working class.
Growden opens with "You Ain't Never Been Loved", a song of bravado and vulnerability. A man with a roving eye challenges his partner with the idea that she'll never leave him because the loving is so good, even if he doesn't treat her well. It soon becomes clear that it's not confidence but fear that drives his challenge. The song is very well written and performed, and picks at the complexity of human emotion in the midst of human imperfection with a deft eye for detail. "Settle In A Little While" is a stuttering song is a silly bit of fun that picks at a social taboo without mean intent. Growden handles the subject with enough panache to probably avoid the whip-lash-like reactions that often accompany such songs.
"Bones" is a dark, desolate, bluesy number that's dark and unsettled. This is among the most intriguing songs on the album; don't be surprised if you hit repeat over and over again. Growden's cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" takes on a country flavor as he brings out the deep-seated, quiet need of the original. "Killing Time" looks at time spent in a town where hope for the future is in short supply. There is a sort of melancholy determination here that surprises, while Growden's instrumental work is good enough to cause a stir on its own. "Lovin' Emma" is a song of unrequited love with a Celtic feel, and is among the best songwriting on the album.
"Takin' My Time" features bluesy guitar work in a classic call-and-response style number. The cello is a nice touch, and Growden manages to bring out the urgent feel of the song amidst an unhurried and occasionally repetitive arrangement. "John Hardy" is an old school song of murder and life on the run. Growden's songwriting is stellar. "Shady Grove" is a solid album track, revisiting the Celtic undertones Growden brought forth earlier. Lose Me In The Sand winds down with "Star Spangled Benz", an interesting conglomeration of "Mercedes Benz" and "The Star Spangled Banner" that has to be heard to be believed.
Mark Growden delivers on his somewhat eclectic songwriting style and distinctive musicianship on Lose Me In The Sand. As a songwriter he is esoteric and intriguing; capable of playing in practically any style or sound under the sun. This falling away of borders invades Growden's other songwriting chores in sometimes unpredictable ways. Even when you might not dig what he's got going on, you have to admire the attention to detail, hard work, and pure flashes of inspiration that Growden blends into an alchemy of song. Lose Me In The Sand may not bowl you over on first listen, but it will keep pulling you back for more.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)