“A seamless mix of country and folk from Down Under…encapsulates perfectly the appeal of the true singer-songwriter.”
– MM, Maverick Magazine (UK)
“one of Australia’s premier songwriters.”
– Ken Date krdcountry.com
“a sheer joy on repeated listening”
– David Dawson, Beat Magazine
“well written, well played, a gentle pleasure, and virtually impossible to dislike.”
– Patrick Wilkins, Americana UK
“…a near perfect musical setting for these distinctly Australian tales of restless souls, ghosts of the past, desert vistas and sunburnt suburban angst.”
-Kim Cheshire, Country Update
“knows how to -in a sublime way- wrap up his stories in a cocoon of real, true country music.”
– François ( Swa ) Braeken, Roots Time E-Zine (Belgium)
This is Mark’s first acoustic album recorded with the aptly named “Dead Setters” (which is really most of his other band “the badhats” without electricity!) Mark co-produced this album with incredibly talented band member Glenn Skarrett.
Mark is one of the few songwriters who is able to easily move between a number of different styles and still tell a heart-felt story in every song. Although Australian now, he’s originally from England and has spent some significant. time in the Western US. All of these influences serve him well as a songwriter in his adopted country.
He observes modern Australian culture in much the same way that Canadian Robbie Robertson (“the Band”) observed American life… from a sympathetic outsider who’s fallen in love with a place and its people and is able to illuminate the spirit of the everyday life of a “simple” man in this country we call Australia.
Mark Lucas and the Dead Setters
White Man Soul (Sunburned Country and the Urban Blues)
A seamless mix of country and folk from Down Under.
To his eternal credit Australian Mark Lucas has resisted the temptation to bring Nashville across the Pacific (or Atlantic if you go the other way). While WHITE MAN SOUL is certainly a country album in spirit, the ‘western’ influence is provided as much by his Australian homeland and the UK as anywhere else. Monster’s Ball for one, is the kind of rough- hewn folk music that is traditionally accompanied by real ale rather than amber nectar.
This global span can be ascribed in no small part to Lucas’ career. In the late 1970’s he was fronting bands in the pubs and clubs of London. At this point he was exposed to the charms of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Buck Owens and Gram Parsons and by the 1980’s he was the other side of the world, doing much the same thing in Sydney.
It took almost two decades from pub ‘rockney’ to release, with 2002’s JUKEBOX JURY (a title that would surely cause raised eyebrows this side of the world) and now WHITE MAN SOUL, his third album and it is the work of a man who has spent a lifetime honing his craft, its tightness is surely the result of hard touring and hard playing.
The seamless mix of folk and country on WHITE MAN SOUL takes Lucas further back in time than Van Zandt and Parsons,
For Everything Else I Got You is the kind of heartfelt, earthy love song that the greats of the 1950’s would be content with, a reminder of a less obviously cynical, age. Despite having pretty much seen it and done it, just about everywhere, Lucas stays surprisingly very close to what is comfortable to him. However, what the album lacks in the energy of youth, it more than compensates for in the substance provided by experience. The Emperor of Wyoming’s Urban Blues is not just a fancy title, it’s also a slice of dusty, flyblown blues, on it Lucas is in no hurry, inviting the listener to sit back, stay awhile and just listen. But he encapsulates perfectly the appeal of the true singer-songwriter. There is an instant attraction to a man who spins the tales of his own life so wonderfully well and it is this bond which will bring listeners back time and time again.
Mark Lucas may never find himself lauded at the CMA’s, he may never play to the thousands that more famous (and sometimes lesser) country musicians will. However, once you’ve heard the music of this talented and honest artist it will undoubtedly get under your skin.
MM Maverick Magazine (UK)
A solid collection of easy to enjoy country from down under.
Mark Lucas originally from England is now based in Sydney and has been described as ‘Sydney’s answer to Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen’. So we have country-folk based songs over an acoustic, fiddle dominated, backing. Even though various Texans of the Flatlanders ilk are a clear influence, to his credit, Mark Lucas makes no attempt to disguise his English/Oz accent, mid Atlantic (or mid Pacific!) tones are notably absent. The songs are world weary tales of the open road, of a man of the country stuck in the city, and the ups, downs, temptations and pain that relationships bring. ‘The Emperor of Wyoming’s Urban Blues’ tells of the perils of urban living over a jazzy blues stroll, ‘I can still hear the birdsong, but its all piped in’, but we know where he wants to be, ‘No I ain’t been down on the farm for quite some time, but I recall the kiss of the free wind and I feel just fine’. The best song is arguably a love song ‘Canal Road’, there’s a touching awkwardness and tenderness here, some humour is thrown in too ‘And with my mind below your waistline, though I still love you for your brain, Ive got this sudden urge to hold your hand again’. Its not a record that will start any fires but it’s well written, well played, a gentle pleasure, and virtually impossible to dislike.
-Patrick Wilkins, Americana UK
COUNTRY MUSIC CAPITAL NEWS – DECEMBER 2005
By Deborah Minter
WHITE MAN SOUL (SUNBURNED COUNTRY AND THE URBAN BLUES)
MARK LUCAS & THE DEAD SETTERS
MARK LUCAS is ‘a sympathetic outside who’s fallen in love with a place (Australia) and its people.’ Mark and most of his band THE BADHATS have lost the electric amplification to record this bluegrass/Australiana style acoustic album White Man Soul (Sunburned Country And The Urban Blues) under the name MARK LUCAS & THE DEAD SETTERS. The album is a laid back journey through Mark’s songbook. The album opens with the debut single When I Call Your Name, a bouncy track. The album flows from song to song, changing rhythm and tempo, but not the general relaxed theme with foot tappers like Monster’s Ball and Charlie, thoughtful tracks like Dryland Sea and Mansion and gentle ballads such as For Everything Else I’ve Got You. Mark drops the ‘grass’ from bluegrass to record the bluesy track The Emperor of Wyoming’s Urban Blues. Mark’s vocals are dry and unpretentious; easy on the ear.
[ SUNBURNED COUNTRY AND THE URBAN BLUES ]
“Well I ain’t been down on the farm for quite some time / now I live in concrete canyons where I barely see the sky.” – The Emperor Of Wyoming’s Urban Blues, Mark Lucas.
(This is the story of two urban troubadours in different corners of the world who have survived to release their fourth albums. Mark Lucas is an English born, latter day Blaxland balladeer who also lived in the west of the US. He recorded White Man Soul (One Stop) with the Dead Setters – fiddler Mark Oats, double bassist Michael Vidale and Glenn Skarratt on mandolin. The other is Arizona movie hit writer John Coinman whose Songs From The Modern West was produced by Teddy Morgan for Netherlands label CoraZong.
Coinman wrote songs for Clay Pigeons, Head Above Water, Goin’ To Montana, Slumber Party Massacre II and TV series Melrose Place. He was music supervisor for Academy award winning Dances With Wolves and three songs in Kevin Costner film The Postman, in which he appears as musician/actor. We’ll return to him later as both albums have a sense of space and travel.)
Lucas kicks off with his freedom eulogy When I Call Your Name, and poverty paean Monster’s Ball. The singer is deft at celebrating a musician’s plight – “I’d rather dance with the devil on the gallows poll / than eat the crumbs from a rich man’s cake.” And if that doesn’t fill the tableau there’s “the bulls and the bears still take the lion’s share / while the poor man works the vein.”
Lucas romps through field of dreams with vignettes as diverse as Girl On A Motorcyle, Is This What You Think You Are Missing, Satin’ N Lace Blues and finale Mansion. He delves into the magic of the outback in Dryland Sea and In Truth and the cultural divide in sibling song Charlie.
Lucas milks the nostalgia of better days in The Emperor Of Wyoming’s Urban Blues, a tune akin to the rollicking spirit of Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks. Equally accessible are wry love lament Canal Street and the climactic chill of faded romance in Whiskey Dents. Don’t let the blues reference in the title dissuade you – this is far more country and a sheer joy on repeated listening.
awaits return of Nu Country TV.
He is reached at email@example.com
MARK LUCAS & THE DEAD SETTERS
White Man Soul, Sunburned Country and the Urban Blues
Expatriate Englishman and Sydney alternative country/folk singer/songwriter Mark Lucas has been working the slowly disappearing Sydney live circuit for the past 20 years now. Following a stint as founding member of Sydney’s early 90s indie country outfit The Parwills he released two critically acclaimed solo albums Jukebox Jury 1999 and The Ghost of Lost Creek Road 2001 and was the first artist to be signed to Stuart Coupe’s independent label Laughing Outlaw.
If it wasn’t for the Anglo/Aussie accent you could be excused for thinking that this was another of the many excellent singer songwriters to have emerged from the seemingly bottomless music well that is Austin, Texas.
In the mould of Tom Russell, Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen and more recently Slaid Cleves, Lucas has found a home not among the gum trees not among these modern day musical beat poets and holds his own like the tireless troubadour that he is.
The new album White Man’s Soul, Sunburned Country and the Urban Blues is his most affecting release yet. Having ditched the electric approach to find an acoustic setting that allows his poetic narratives more room to breathe he has created his best album so far.
It’s so easy to lose sight of the heart of this type of storytelling with electric guitars, drums and the temptation to over produce. Here with the help of co/producer and long time musical collaborator and multi instrumentalist Glen Skarrett along with bassist Michael Vidale and fiddler Mark Oats he has managed to come up with a near perfect musical setting for these distinctly Australian tales, of restless souls, ghost of the past, desert vistas and sunburnt suburban angst. Bouyed along by the spirited acoustic backing and the inspired fiddle/mandolin/guitar interplay, that is as much Irish/English Folk singer as it is Texas troubadour, Lucas is given the space to wave his tales and conjure up his characters in this fine collection of songs.
– Kim Cheshire, Country Update
It’s been some time since we received anything from Down Under so singer/songwriter Mark Lucas must have thought “I’ll send some work to those boys at Roots Time” No-one ever perished from an honest day’s work and I don’t want to be the first one either but… an album like “White Man Soul” certainly motivates us to take the pen in the hand.
This totally-unbeknown-to-me Englishman based in Sydney has just completed his third album. Jukebox Jury (’99) and The Ghost of Lost Creek Road (’01) were produced earlier and contributed to Mark being recognised as “Australia’s best country songwriter… one of the few who is able to move between a number of styles and still tell a heartfelt story in every song” (Bryen Willems, Radio 2RRR Sydney). So don’t just take my word for it.
The well presented press kit talks about Lucas’ first acoustic album just released. For the occasion his band changed their name from the badhats to the Dead Setters. It won’t have made much difference for Mark Oats (fiddle, harmony vocal), Glenn Skarratt (mandolin, guitar, acoustic bass, harmony vocal) and Michael Vidale (double Bass) ‘cause they can take pride in having produced a fine album.
With a traditional bluegrass line up and his view of the world and the cultural activities in Oz, he’s been compared with Robbie Robertson who caused quite a stir by singing about his observations of the machinations of Americans.
Maybe Lucas comes a little less sharply from that angle and mainly talks about how the world is changing in the eyes of a well travelled man, husband and father. In any case he knows how to -in a sublime way- wrap up his stories in a cocoon of real, true country music. Fourteen songs recorded in between births, deaths, marriages and restoration work on the family home. It doesn’t have to be more than that.
– François ( Swa ) Braeken, Roots Time E-Zine (Belgium)
Thanks to Jan Proos for the translation
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