Yonder The Big Blue Holler (Off the Beat-N-Track)
This 10-track Americana romp plays like a woozy set in an Appalachian roadhouse in which miraculous things happen somewhere between the seventh and eighth longneck. Beautifully recorded at Mack’s Off The Beat-N-Track studio in Western Massachusetts, the disc has a casual and organic nature that is belied by the fact that more than 25 different musicians pitch in on the tunes. You got yer pedal steel, yer Hammond organ, yer banjo, yer fiddle, yer pennywhistle. . . . The rollicking “Five Nights Drunk” features a full-throttle Dixieland band breakdown, like an itinerant horn section happened to wander across the stage and agree to play for drinks for a couple of minutes. “Devil Outta Me” is a Muscle Shoals-style funk workout that sounds like a lost Booker T hit, filtered through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Mack is no stranger to any of this, having put in his time touring and recording with Atlanta’s the Griswolds through much of the ’90s before settling down in the Berkshires as a studio owner and, more recently, acclaimed children’s book author. His voice bears a passing resemblence to Jerry Garcia’s, a voice that sounds high, lonesome, and irrepressably optimistic at once. Mack shares guitar duties with Berkshire guitar aces Bobby Sweet, Steve Ide and Tor Krautter.
The disc closes with the utterly moving “Beautiful Angel,” a song-poem about his old friend and former bandmate Daniel Pearl, the journalist brutally murdered by his Pakistani kidnappers in 2002, which features loops of Pearl playing the fiddle.