Mark Erelli - Little Vigils
2011, Hillbilly Pilgrim Records
2011, Hillbilly Pilgrim Records
Mark Erelli is a songwriter's songwriter. His attention to detail and song structure is as complete and thorough as is his lyrical construction. The singer/songwriter impressed critics across the country, including those of us here at WW, with his 2008 album "Delivered". Erelli has continued to grow as a songwriter since then, and has become more conscious of the world around him and the small details that make up each event and moment. His musical growth and growing understanding of the world catalyze on his latest effort, Little Vigils. Erelli once again enlisted the services of producer Zach Hickman, but otherwise let go of the fine control he has practiced over his recordings in the past. Erelli built the song structures, and then brought in great musicians with whom he had chemistry and let the songs take life as they would.
Little Vigils opens with "August", a low-key Americana number about finding one of life's perfect moments, and not messing it up by wishing for more. This momentary respite in song represents gorgeous songwriting, and is transformational for Erelli as an artist, who seems to have found the next rung on his own musical Jacob's Ladder. "Everything In Ruin" is written from the depths of despair, but is full of hope for renewal. The catchy arrangement is a dead giveaway, and the chorus will stick with you for days. "Kingdom Come" is a well-constructed humanist anthem that takes a classicist perspective on questions of truth with regard to religion. Even if you don't buy Erelli's Darwinian perspective, the song is well-written and has a smooth flow that belies its intellectualism.
"Columbus Ohio" is an intriguing song about a man leaving home because there's nothing left there to sustain him. Erelli captures a painful truth of life in the American rust belt and beyond, where the dreams of generations of families are left behind because the jobs that long sustained them have disappeared. "Basement Days" is an Americana 'glory days' tune, exploring memories of teenage rock bands and a desire to go back to simpler times. Erelli fills the song with 60's and 70s song references, including such greats as the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix. Erelli takes listeners on a sudden left turn with the darkly beautiful "Hemlock Grove", an aurally sweet musical experience you'll be glad to make the acquaintance of.
Erelli gets back to questions of faith on "Mother Of Mysteries", exploring humanities need for a belief in the "hereafter". Erelli writes well here, presenting the questions that have incited epistemological and cosmological arguments for centuries in straight-forward, accessible form. "I Took The Moon For A Walk" is a wonderful little flight of fancy with the soul of blues lying deep within its heart. Erelli is a master story-teller here, and constructs an absolutely beautiful arrangement around his words. "Same For Someone" relays the advice of a father to a small child against a gentle Americana arrangement that's part lullaby and part secular hymn. The love that flows quietly from this song is palpable. "Coming Home" is gentle and sweet, an acknowledgment that no matter how far you travel, you really can go home again. Little Vigils fades to black with live, solo acoustic "Pauline", a gently cascading ballad about the geography of the human heart. Erelli touches on truths both subtle and sublime in a plaintive singer/songwriter style that is refreshing and pure.
Mark Erelli writes plays and sings with utter conviction throughout Little Vigils, pouring every ounce of himself into his songs. The result is stunning; a significant step forward for a guy who seemed to already have it all together the last time we heard from him. Little Vigils deserves consideration for yearend lists, even if the currently fractious music market rarely allows artists to receive sufficient exposure to actually get what they deserve. If you're looking for a singer/songwriter who can blow you away with his power, yet summon the subtlety to rock you to sleep when called for, the Mark Erelli is an artist you need to get to know. Little Vigils represents significant growth for Erelli as an artist, and it can be nothing less than a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)