For people who enjoy vocals similar to David Fogelberg, Steve Goodman, Jonathan Edwards, Emitt Rhodes or Jackson Browne this LP by 5-time Emmy winner Mark Oblinger will be quite intriguing.
Fortunately, despite a light touch, Mark doesn’t project like a wimpy-folk singer. His voice has depth, character, and sincerity. “Judgment Road,” (should’ve been called “Playing Hooky On Judgement Day”) has a James Taylor-Eric Andersen-Jackson Browne thread through its solid folky charts. But never sounds imitative. It’s Mark — richly expressive.
Released July 2019 the 12-track High Water Line, (Independent) is a well-written & performed set. Produced by singer-songwriter John McVey.
A fiery harmonica (Clay Kirkland) is prominently featured on “Little Bird,” a rather plain title but the song kicks ass. Mark, like a Kenny Loggins sings in a formula-like manner (Mark is not yet at that intensely diversified unique John Prine, Kris Kristofferson or John Mellancamp level), but — he has catchy clever folk-pop tunes. Like Loggins, he can include a nuclear-powered track (“Somebody Knows” & “I’m Alright”) that singes your eyebrows. Mark has this capability.
He focuses on quality melodies & lyrics with subdued brilliance. It’s easy for a song to get away at first — but the songs will subliminally sink in because the musical intricacies as performed by Mark’s band is attractive & precise. Hints of vivid banjo (Dusty Rider) drift about. Lead guitars sprinkle a dazzle of notes like powdered sugar on pastries. Yes, the majority of songs are borderline confections, but Mark is clever & dresses up his collection with no mediocrity. None. Songs are indeed energetic & compelling.
“I Say Love,” will attract a lounge-lizard lover with its cocktail piano nostalgia. But because those types of songs are not in vogue today as they were in the 50’s it’s more of a peculiarity. This is performed by Mark exquisitely. This is Michael Bublé, Cassandra Wilson or Harry Connick Jr. territory.
The band includes Christian Tate (drums), Greg Garrison & Chris Engleman (bass), Eric Moon (keys), Nick Forster (slide & electric guitars on “Little Red”), Pete Sharpe (mandolin), with Mark himself on acoustic guitar & great horn players.
A dip into a bluesier-rock genre “Let It Roll,” scoops out some funky brass ala Graham Central Station-type production. Back into Loggins’ land “Living Imitation,” provides touches of soul through its backup singers with well-written lyrics. “He’s a living imitation, of what he wants to be…”Beautiful. It’s a commercially perfect tune for a soul group. The Temptations, the almost forgotten but excellent Tymes, or Smokey Robinson.
The wonderfully impressive “Poet on the Corner,” — offers warm Van Morrison-type solid horns. A pensive purifying song. Respectfully captured in a Van Morrison spirit. Mark stays soulful with “Pressure Makes Diamonds,” & his Morrison mix comes full circle.
Probably the best song is “Love Is,” a beautiful composition that won’t be easy for another singer to top Mark’s impressive, emotional & perfectly sung concluding ballad. Absolutely marvelous.
The 51-minute CD: available at eBay, CDBaby & Apple Music: https://markoblinger.com/