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Mark Erelli

Huffington Post (Delivered)

That brings us to Mark Erelli, and there's no question as to what he's thinking or feeling. His beautiful new thematic album, Delivered, is an important release, a song-cycle from the perspective of those most ensnared by the unfortunate events of a darkening world. Sure, that sounds heavy or depressing, but so what. Erelli articulates his topics so well and his characters are so engrossing that its worth the emotional investment. This soul-stirring endeavor follows his excellent political coming-of-age effort, Hope And Other Casualties, whose call to arms, "Here & Now," should be adopted by the Obama camp immediately. Delivered kicks-off with "Hope Dies Last," a song in which Erelli, his girlfriend and their "alarm" on New Year's Day realize that despite the holiday's promise of a clean slate, "nothing much has changed here." In these first six minutes, he lists suicide bombers, endangered coal miners, a phony preacher's playing the fear card by prophesying the Mississippi river's next ravaging of New Orleans, scandalous politicians suddenly appearing on the scene, illegal wiretapping, and a president who views his citizenry as the enemy. He's right. Nothing much has changed here.

Delivered also features a spirited road trip whose mission is to heal a damaged relationship ("Baltimore"), a self-reassurance of God's existence ("Not Alone"), a story of rendition ("Shadowland") and "Volunteers" which will rip your heart out. It starts out innocently, recalling how some stiff who, as a child, played with toy soldiers in his backyard, then years later, signed-up with the National Guard that paid for his college education. Oh yeah, that was all pre-9/11, but the tale continues. Of course, the story must shift into the horrors of war, though this narrative calmly unfolds through Erelli's matter-of-fact, occasionally punctuated delivery. Refreshingly, he has the guardsman maintain a level of neutrality, the song's last lines singing, "If you find I've fallen after all this smoke has cleared, let the record show I volunteered." And in "Man Of The Family," a father speaks to his son from the grave, instructing him to not let the rest of the clan see him cry, and how he will have to "muddle through somehow" as he takes on his late father's responsibilities. This is powerful stuff, and it's a shame that over the six or so albums Mark Erelli has created, he hasn't grown into a more popular artist. But we all know about marketing challenges and how difficult it is these days to cut through the cacophony of TMZ-style stories our mainstream media prefers. As Erelli points out, nothing much has changed here. But as he also reminds us by that song's title, "Hope Dies Last." --Mike Ragogna

updated: 3 years ago