Date: Saturday, February 05, 2005 @ 13:08:00 CST
Artist: Todd Mack
CD: Yonder the Big Blue Holler
Home: Southfield, Massachusetts
Quote: "Think Canadian troubadour Fred Eaglesmith meets Tom Waits with a side order of Steve Earle."
By David McPherson
Over the years, insurgent or alt.country has come in many shapes and styles. From the cow punk of early Uncle Tupelo and Old 97s to the country-folk of Whiskeytown and Richard Buckner, this popular moniker has encompassed many musical styles that don’t fall into the mainstream Nashville country box. New-England based singer-songwriter Todd Mack mixes the best of all these styles and more — think Canadian troubadour Fred Eaglesmith meets Tom Waits with a side order of Steve Earle.
Through ten tracks, he offers a smorgasbord of songs delivered with a gritty voice that run the gamut from bluegrass-tinged ballads (“Hand in Hand” and “The Best Girl I Never Had”) to punk-laced tracks “Poor House” (a Traveling Wilbury’s cover) to bluegrass barnstormers such as the traditional song “Five Nights Drunk.” The latter features a flugelhorn that transforms this song midway through into a juke-joint offering circa the Jazz Era.
Just to keep the listener guessing, Mack even gets the blues on “Devil Outta Me” and gets Celtic on the instrumental “How High the Corn.” Yonder the Big Blue Holler is Mack’s fifth disc, but his first in nearly eight years. Previously, he recorded a couple of discs on Dog Driver Records as the frontman for The Griswolds. As a staple of the Atlanta music scene for more than 17 years, the songsmith showcased his talents in this southern milieu. With lush instrumentation that includes pedal steel, mandolin, fiddle and banjo, some accomplished players join Mack.
The disc closes with “Beautiful Angel,” a haunting homage to Mack’s friend — martyred American journalist Daniel Pearl — to whom he dedicates the album.