Mark Eitzel - Hey Mr Ferryman - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mark Eitzel - Hey Mr Ferryman

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2017-01-27

There is only one Mark Eitzel. Call him the Poet Laureate of closing time or the Patron Saint of San Francisco, but he is one of the most highly original and consistently rewarding singer-songwriters out there. And let’s face it, singer-songwriters of this caliber are a dying breed, despite the lack of shortage.

“I spent the last ten years trying to waste half an hour,” Eitzel croons on the opening track of Hey Mr. Ferryman.  If ever I’ve heard a crow bar hit the funny bone, that’s it. Pretty much sums up the hopes and shattered dreams of busting your heart and soul to release an album, only to have the world give it the cold shoulder. Lushly and deftly produced by Suede’s Bernard Butler, Hey Mr. Ferryman is one of Mark Eitzel’s most riveting solo efforts. The best way to describe it? An introvert's cocktail lounge. In short, a pure shot of 100 proof Eitzel.

His expressive baritone sounds preserved in amber. His wit, sharp and barbed as ever. His heart all too quietly bleeding from sleeve. At moments, its as if American Music Club never broke up. Here, the assembled team of crack musicians lend a dynamic ear to Eitzel’s occasionally reclusive musings.

“My dance moves are said to be a delight as long as we keep it slow,” Eitzel intimates on ‘The Answer’. No one writes a love song quite like this, where heartbreak and romance waltz off the cliff at dawn. “You make me want to stay and find if there’s an answer,” he confesses. It’s a sentiment that aptly sums up this long player. This is the kind of album that drives all night but knows, “there’s no end to the road.”

Eitzel’s style is unassuming, never breaking bottles so much as pass one over with a silent nudge. And if each dance is a slow dance, things never fall into naval gazing or self-indulgence. There’s a buoyancy that keeps each foot atop the waters that drown so many. This is especially the case of the world weary, ‘Nothing and Everything.’ One of the most shy and beautiful performances on the album.

Only Eitzel could come up with a title like, ‘An Angel’s Wings Brushed the Penny Slots’. Musically, the song’s Lounge tendencies manage to provide just the right amount of sarcastic kitsch for the ironic tale of a widower cashing it in by playing the slots alone in a cheesy Vegas casino. All the while haunted by the memory of his wife cashing it in, in his arms, after a self-inflicted gunshot. There’s almost a lonesome Edward Hopper like quality to this song. Who writes them like this, I ask? Who, ever did?

If you were expecting things to get chipper, ‘In My Role as a Professional Singer and Ham’ burns uncomfortably close. “When you look at me, I look away,” he sings with “a mouth full of gravy and turkey and truth.’ The jokes keep coming as the song slowly rises from a whisper to a plea. Lyrically, Eitzel’s on top of his game with quips like “your eyes aglow like stolen watches.” The song climaxes in soaring strings and spacey guitars. “I know I lean melodramatic,” Eitzel confesses in his customary self-deprecating manner. But nothing could be further from the truth. It’s more like, “melocatastrophic” in terms of emotional impact.

‘Mr. Humphries’ is a revealing character study of a grumpy neighbor that brings those soaring, Scott Walker kitchen sink dramas to mind. The moral is simple: “So be kind to Mr. Humphries, though you think his role is small.” Musically, the dynamics at play are an emotional roller coaster. Another album highlight.

“La Llorona’ (translation: The Weeping Woman) is the most driving number on Hey Mr. Ferryman. The protagonist coming off like a wounded refugee from Tennessee Williams’ Small Craft Warnings.  It may all be “the faggot, the junkie, the runaround,” but “love is the blood where you drown.”

“Just let me go,” Eitzel pleads towards album’s end, and that’s just what Hey Mr. Ferryman does. Lets Eitzel go, allowing him to do what he does best. “Nothing takes the sleep from my eyes,” we hear in parting. One deep listen to this record and you’ll never want to brush the memory of it away. Thanks for the thirty or so minutes, Mr. E.

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