A Review of the CD
"Compass & Companion"
by Mark Erelli

"Compass & Companion"
by Mark Erelli

Copyright 2000
Signature Sounds Recordings - SIG 1263
P.O. Box 106
Whately, MA 01093
ph: (800) 694-5354
http://signature-sounds.com and
info@signature-sounds.com and

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 2/01
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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The most remarkable thing about Mark Erelli's latest batch of songs is how effortlessly, from cut to cut, he transitions from folk to rock to Americana to country and back. Check that--make it both effortlessly and believably. While his lyrics are fairly straightforward, it is the musical settings he creates and the delivery of those lyrics that carry this release. His vocals even have a slight sort of twanginess that add credence to the material.

The prime examples of Erelli's smoothness in shifting from genre to genre appear about two thirds into the offerings: "Free Ride," "Before I Knew Your Name" and "Take My Ashes To The River."

The electric guitar and drum-driven "Free Ride" serves as a sort of universal wakeup call. Erelli sings:

"...Did you think they'd give you everything you need
Did you think as you ask so shall you receive
They'll let you roll the dice
But there ain't no guarantee...

...Did you think they'd take you in with open arms
Boy, just how long have you been living on the farm
They'll want to see you bleed
But there's no need for alarm..."

The chorus goes:
"Nobody promised you a free ride kid
So put that fantasy out of your head
Your gonna have to work like your daddy did..."
He follows with the quiet "Before I Knew Your Name," a dreamily-delivered paean about the delightful yet dizzying effect of someone special entering one's life:
"I walked these streets before I knew your name
Now you're by my side and nothing seems the same
Has everything turned upside down or am I the one who changed
I walked these streets before I knew your name..."
Employing jaw harp and an Indian instrument called the gopichand, Erelli pulls a traditional Appalachian-type sound and story out of his musical repertoire in "Take My Ashes To The River." A tale of forbidden love, pain, and hardship, a young wife is felled by fever and extracts a final promise before dying. Erelli sings:
"...One mournful morning in late November
Fateful to her last desire
I burned her body down to embers
Scooped the ashes from the fire
Down on the banks of the Blackstone River
For to drown her memory
As her spirit I delivered
I heard her calling out to me

Takes my ashes to the river
Where the water's cold and deep
Take my ashes to the river
Pray the Lord my soul to keep"

The title cut, "Compass & Companion," is a sweet duet with Kelly Willis while "Why Should I Cry" opens with guitar riffs that brought to mind the opening of some of Hank Williams' tunes.

Erelli, on vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar and electric guitar, is backed by Lorne Entress on drums, percussion, jaw harp, gopichand, vocals and keyboards; Jim Lamond on bass; Duke Levine on electric guitar, lap steel and mandola; Bruce Katz on Hammond organ; Kevin Barry on electric guitar and slide guitar; and Dave Dick on banjo. Kelly Willis on vocals; and Rani Arbo on vocals.

Track List:

All songs written by Mark Erelli, except as noted.

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