REVIEW: Mark Oblinger’s “High Water Line” Has Depth, Character and Sincerity


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:

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