Mark Erelli is a singer-songwriter from the Boston area who is known for his ability to craft a song, whether it’s just him on a guitar or backed by a band. His song “By Degrees” was nominated for song of the year (in the same category as some guy named John Prine) at the 2019 Americana Music Awards. His previous album Blindsided won acclaim with both fans and journalists, and rightly so.
His new album is entitled Lay Your Darkness Down. The songs on it were largely inspired by his diagnosis of retinits pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that eventually leads to blindness. The diagnosis understandably came with some pretty heavy emotions. ”The only way I could console myself was to know that I was still going to have some creative agency. I could then bring whatever I was feeling or wanting to express into reality.” To craft this group of songs, he set up a studio in his home and created all the layers by himself.
Immediately, you hear some similarities to artists like Tom Petty and Jeff Tweedy. “Break in the Clouds” is the opening track. It is a warm, easygoing, and melodic rock song that is easy to sing along with. At the same time, there is enough twang to realize why he fits into the Americana category.
You can also hear some folk in these songs in that they would translate just as well if he just played them on acoustic guitar, much like he did on previous albums like Innocent When You Dream.
There is a recurring theme of not taking things for granted. No matter how many songs you hear with a similar theme, you realize it is a timeless one. “You’re Gonna Wanna Remember This” is something of a vignette. He paints a picture of little moments like listening with someone to “Rosalita” on the radio and holding onto it because “it may never happen again”. It’s a beautifully crafted song with a message that we should all take to heart every day. “Sense of Wonder” is another song whose message hits you right in the heart. The melody brings Bob Dylan to mind while the lyrics encourage the listener to look at the world through the eyes of a child who sees the backyard as a jungle. You could choose any number of standout lines from the song. One that particularly grabs the attention is when he sings, “Without a sense of wonder, it begins to seem so tragic and so small.”
Lay Your Darkness Down by Mark Erelli comes across as an introspective collection of narrative poems. It’s clear that Erelli put his heart into this album. As a result, these songs will make you feel something in your heart while you hear the images he creates. While it may have been emotionally purgative for him, it could easily be an emotional balm for the listener to hear the messages contained in these songs. The album will be available everywhere on February 3. Order yours here.
Find our previous coverage here: REVIEW: Mark Erelli Releases “Blindsided” the Album for Our Time and Place