“Mark Lucas remains one of the country’s most interesting and literate songwriters, and his band exemplifies the hard edged inner western honky tonk that always goes over well.”
– Ken Date, krdcountry.com, 2008 Tamworth Festival Report
Singer-songwriter, Mark Lucas doesn’t fit neatly into the mould of contemporary Australian country/roots artists. A resident of inner-western Sydney, Mark spins tales rooted in urban experience but informed by a land as untamed and contrasting as the characters who inhabit it.
With over 20 years experience playing in and fronting bands- from the late ’70’s London pub scene, to a diverse range of bands in Sydney from the mid ’80’s, Mark’s musical journey has taken him from early country influences, through blues, folk rock,’80’s pop and back to a unique blend of all.
Indeed his bands have helped spawn some notable careers…Jodi Phillis (Clouds, Dearhunters) was a creative partner in the mid ’80’s (in the pop/rock groups Fifth Business & NuGenes), and also familiar may be Matt Handley (Pollyanna) whose first post High School gig was as drummer with Fingerpop. More recently, Mark will be familiar to many as the leader of local ‘urban & western’ exponents, The Parwills, whose critically acclaimed 1996 album “Bootheels of Desire” declared “alt country” alive and well Downunder.
Mark’s first exposure to country music was in the late ‘70’s through a group of friends in his native England, who discovered the then burgeoning Texas singer-songwriter scene (Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt, The Flatlanders etc), as well as California based country artists such as Buck Owens and the late Gram Parsons. Now, in 2009 with half a dozen albums under his belt he continues to explore the storytelling soul at country music’s heart.
Debut solo release “Jukebox Jury” was released in late 1999 and, featuring the undoubted talents and energies of the likes of Andrew Claremont (fiddle), Michel Rose (steel guitar), Jim Conway (harp), and Larry Muhoberac (piano), positively bristles with drive.
2002’s “The Ghost of Lost Creek Road”, further cemented his growing reputation as one of Australia’s more individual songwriting talents. This release sees him truly step out into his own. Melding a rich but natural mix of folk, country and blues roots with a sharp pop sensibility, Mark spins us stories of ordinary people and the world we inhabit expressed with a realism tempered by a dry wit.
2005 saw the release of his third album with long-time co-producer, Glenn Skarratt: “White Man Soul, Sun-burned Country & the Urban Blues” is a collection of new songs in a more acoustic format, featuring a core group of Mark Oats (Bushwackers)- fiddle, Glenn Skarratt – mandolin, and Michael Vidale (Feral Swing Cats)- bass. The album garnered critical acclaim across the globe, and Mark played a number of folk festivals as well as a couple of shows in his native England in support of the album.
Sideshow Alley, released in late 2007 is a spirited mix of new material recorded with regular band, The Dead Setters and a number of musical friends, including James Gillard (The Flood), Michel Rose (Feral Swing Cats etc), Mark Oats (The Bushwackers); and retrospective, with a handful of songs from the past decade re-recorded live. This was also the fifth album to be co-produced with long-time collaborator, Glenn Skarratt.
Captured at the Sydney launch of their Sideshow Alley album in late June 2008, the “Live at the Cooks River Motor Boat Club” DVD is a snapshot of a passionate songwriter & a group of talented musicians drawing on a broad range of influences- from bluegrass to swing, dusty bar-room honky tonk to country blues & ballads, all flavoured with a distinctly Australian edge and an earthy feel for character & narrative -no fancy audio processing here or ’fixing it in the mix’ – it is as it was on the night – great original roots music.
Mark has won a number of awards including a Pater World Media Award (Australian Academy of Broadcast Arts & Sciences), he was named Top 20 Finalist at the 2005 MusicOz Awards Folk Artist of the Year for his track ‘To The Limit’. He was again named a Top 20 Finalist in the 2006 MusicOz Awards Folk Artist of the Year with two tracks making the cut ‘Dryland Sea’ and ‘Monsters Ball’. His track ‘Girl on a Motorbike’ made the Top 70 in Country Artist of the Year.
The 2006 International Songwriting Competition recognised Mark’s songwriting talents with a finalist inclusion out of over 14,000 entries in the Americana section for his ‘For Everything Else I Got You’.
Another of Mark’s self-penned tracks ‘Tearin’ This Old House Down’ was named a semi-finalist in the 2007 TSA National Country Songwriting Contest, and he scored 7th place in the 2007 Australian Songwriters Assoc Contest with ‘Heartbeat Waltz’ (he has been a finalist every year since 2000).
The Dead Setters made the Top 10 finalists in Best Australian Group in both the 2007 & 2008 Victorian & National Country Music Awards.
In 2008 he decided that songwriting does not sit well as a competitive activity & retired from competing.
Whilst the roots/country feel prevails, Mark’s songwriting truly captures a spirit of place having a style which is distinctly Australian yet not Australiana; if you warm to the passion of other contemporary Australian singer/songwriters such as Paul Kelly, Shane Howard, Neil Murray or Broderick Smith, you’re bound to find something to hang your hat on here.
Mark’s band, The Dead Setters, provides a distinctive musical backdrop that Kim Cheshire in Country Update Magazine describes as “a near perfect musical setting for these distinctly Australian tales of restless souls, ghosts of the past, desert vistas and suburban angst.”
Between them one of the most experienced bands you are likely to encounter, the six piece Dead Setters stake out their territory with textured layers of fiddle, mandolin and pedal steel, backed with strong three part harmonies. With shades of Celtic, Americana folk & country blues soaking through the fabric, this is living roots music.
“This guy was born to write songs that you’d want to hear on your car stereo as you hit the road”
–Brent McKean, Revolver
“A seamless mix of country & 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
“…check him out as he offers something unique in a world populated by clones and yesterday’s music.”
– Jon Wolfe, Tamworth City News
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