Mark Joseph

REVIEW: Mark Joseph flows between genres on “Vegas Motel”


Mark Joseph is a singer-songwriter that you could place in the broad Americana category and you wouldn’t be wrong. It wouldn’t be a complete description, however. On his previous two albums, he has explored blues and other Americana sounds. He has also collaborated with members of moe., Little Feat, and Trampled by Turtles, among others.

His new album is Vegas Motel. Like a lot of music in the last two years, this album was colored by experiences in a post-COVID world. The result is a collection of eight earnest songs that range from barroom country to soul.

You know you’re in for something good when the first thing you hear is some sustained notes on the pedal steel. In a style similar to Sam Outlaw, Joseph puts the listener in the bar of a Vegas motel to drink away the memory of a certain someone. He tells the story so well, you can almost smell the stale beer and the smoke of countless cigarettes that remains in the walls.

There is a running theme of work and workers in three of the songs. “Hard Workin’ Man” is a heartfelt song about a man who comes home every day with dirty hands to provide for his family. The fiddle comes front and center in the instrumental break. “Nate’s Garage” has plenty of twang but also goes a little more toward a rock sound with the guitar (especially in the solo) and the organ. In it, Joseph tells a story of a patriotic man who lives his life with a wrench in his hand. Then there is “The Life of a Pipe Welder.” Joseph himself acknowledges that a pipe welder is an unlikely subject when he opens with the lyrics, “The life of a pipe welder is seldom told.” This one has more of a folk vibe with the acoustic guitar until the end when the volume and tempo are turned up and the guitar part sounds more like Dickey Betts than any folk artist.

The album ends with three subdued, heartfelt songs. “Love You ‘Til I Die” is a soulful ballad featuring horns. The theme is a familiar one. Two people meet, have some dances and some shots, and find lasting love with each other. While it is familiar, it isn’t cliched, which is no easy feat for a love song. The instrumentation in “Little Lucy” is spare, but it’s not necessarily the melody that you’ll notice most. That distinction belongs to the lyrics in this touching ode in which Joseph opens by singing, “On the day that you were born / the day that I met you / is the greatest day of my life.” And that’s just the beginning. All of the lyrics are enough to melt your heart.

This album only has eight songs. However, in that limited space, Joseph shows not only his ability to tell a good story but also shows versatility moving easily from one style to the next. He isn’t content to remain in one genre and he excels no matter what style he chooses for a song. Vegas Motel is available everywhere now.

JT Bates – Drums & Percussion / Drones
Mark Joseph – Lead Vocal / Guitars Acoustic & Electric / Drones
Cody McKinney – Bass
Ryan Young – Fiddle
Steph Devine – Backup Vocals
Jill Mikelson – Backup Vocals
Toby Lee Marshall – Hammond Organ
Stanley Behrens- Alto Flute
Jeff Waldeland – Pedal Steel
Jake Baldwin – Trumpet & Bass Trumpet
Alex Proctor – Drone and Rhythm Guitar on “The Life of a Pipe Welder” & Keys on “Little Lucy”
Jeremy Ylvisaker – Guitar on “Little Lucy”

Produced by JT Bates & Mark Joseph
Composed by Mark Joseph
Engineered & Mixed by Alex Proctor

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