Resident Media Pundit (For A Song)
He’s been called the American male equivalent to Neko Case, has opened up for Faith Hill and calls Josh Ritter and Paula Cole close friends and yet nine albums into his career, Mark Erelli has still yet to become a household name.
All that’s about to change.
His latest album, For a Song, is easily his best work to date and is poised to make Erelli one of the foremost names in folk music and beyond. From the very first notes, For a Song is confident, tender and wholly engaging. Whether its the church janitor contemplating the supernatural in “Look Up” or the aging tech guru in “Analog Hero,” there’s no shortage of compelling characters and indelible melodies. Erelli is at his best though when he’s writing more close to home and there’s quite a few of those songs in this lot.
Album opener “Oklahoma” is a spartan and airy ode to homesickness that might just be one of the year’s best songs, while title track “For a Song” contemplates the double-edged sword of a family man living his life on the road. Erelli has always known his way around a playful tune and the ebullient “Wayside” is proof of that. Though it might be the album’s weakest it gives the album a much needed lift. Similar to that, the nostalgic “Magic,” serves as a life lesson to his youngest son, imparting both childhood reflections and words of wisdom. If only all of us could have a father so steadfast.
For all the many gems on For a Song, two distinctly stand out. The slow-building “Amsterdam” builds and lifts making for a cut that lingers long after the final seconds. That same sentiment is repeated in the impassioned and invigorating closer “French King.” When that song finally stops, the urge to go back and hit repeat is almost too hard to pass up.
Having crafted a career as an in-demand producer and sideman, Erelli knows his way around a song. Effortless, enveloping and richly rewarding, For a Song is a glimpse into the mind of an artist at the pinnacle of his career. Here’s to hoping his next one is just as strong.
by Gregory Robson