MARK CROFT – Southbound Walking Northward
(2019 Mere Poet)
You can purchase Southbound Walking Northward here.
It’s been a while since Mark Croft has put out some new original material. 2013 saw his live recording Live at Shake Rag Alley and his last full-length of originals, Evening Flood, dates back to 2010. Croft has hardly been idle, however, performing consistently as a soloist, as a duo with violinist Jon Vriesacker, as a trio adding guitarist/basist Dan Kennedy and as the Mark Croft Band adding drummer Robert Boyd.
Southbound Walking Northward is a five-song EP that draws influence from the blues, Cajun and folk music of the American South although like most of Croft’s music he draws from real-life emotions (with an emphasis on the real) and a sense of gratitude that percolates through the contradictions of simply being human. The opening title track is a good example of that; the oft-asked questions of “Where am I going and what am I looking for?” resolving that perhaps the destination is right here, right now.
The sound on the EP is fantastic, clear and full. Croft plays nearly all the instruments, banjo and resonator guitar giving the music that Southern feel. Vriesacker’s violin is ever-present, essential to Croft’s tapestry, especially paired with cello (played by Max Dyer) on the gorgeous “For That Pretty Girl.” There is more than a hint of country in Croft’s music, a lilt in his voice, the music conjuring images of American backroads and culture. “Radiator Alligator” is about just what you think it is, washed down with PBR. Croft trades mandolin licks with Vriesacker over a tight rhythm bed. Croft remains playful, even when he’s singing about dreams that are troubling him (“Something Troubling”). This must be a signal that there is something going wrong but damn if he can figure it out while getting shrugged off by Bonnie Raitt ain’t helping.
Croft is one of those mainstays on Madison’s music scene. It’s far too easy to take fine musicians like him for granted. You can always count on them being there for us, like a good friend you see once in a while, but a deeper appreciation is often elusive – the musician’s bane. It complicates the process of continually going out on a limb to produce new music, both psychologically and financially. In Croft’s case, though, he seems to be warm by the fire, floating on calmer seas while somewhere out there is a world in far more troubling waters; a destination that maybe just isn’t worth travelling to.