Sideshow Alley

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Artist:    Mark Lucas and the Dead Setters

Title:    Sideshow Alley

“high flying country blues”
– Salvatore Baldacchino, Backstage Radio News (Belgium)
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“…very varied, strong roots recording of a great Australian band.”

– Freddy Celis, Rootstime (Netherlands)
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“…anyone who knows anything about Mark Lucas will testify
that the man takes his songcrafting seriously,
a trait that has established Lucas as a well-respected writer.”

-Martin Jones, Rhythms
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“Mark Lucas & the Dead Setters have made traditional country their own and don’t have to convince.”
– John Gjaltema, alt (Netherlands)
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“One falls in love from the first listen…impossible to be bored with such a large musical and rhythmic variety…a strongly recommended album.”
-Roland Lanzarone, Le Cri du Coyote (France)

“…smoking and it is not
dangerous to your health”

– Keith Glass, Capital News
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“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 in Tamworth.”

Ken Date- 2008 Tamworth Festival Report

“Feeling like a relaxed start to the New Year? Why not consider the acquisition of Sideshow Alley (own label release) by Mark Lucas & the Dead Setters? The CD was largely recorded live in the studio and mainly stands out because of the remarkably supple/flexible swing. A song like Friday Come Sunday is not entirely steady, a bit like Willie Nelson’s approach, with a relaxed swing, and the fiddle and steel take care of the rest. Mark Lucas is an Australian from Sydney and has been active for quite a while. In the late seventies he played with a number of bands in the London pub circuit and that can still be heard. Even though Amore es Perdido has a Mexican touch it’s played the way the English approach Texan music. Perhaps think of Wes McGhee. More importantly, Mark Lucas & the Dead Setters succeed in grabbing the Doug Sahm groove. In that sense I’m reminded of the un-fixed style of Blaze Foley. Mark Lucas & the Dead Setters have made traditional country their own and don’t have to convince; the style is not cramped. This means that in songs like Your Town and Wind River they can admit Irish influences without punishment. Also -as far as melody is concerned- in the Neil Diamond reminiscent Story of Our Life, Lucas remains convincing. This is Western swing without the exact the exact definitions of the genre.”

– John Gjaltema, (Netherlands)


Mark Lucas and his pals hail from Sydney, Australia and that is just to situate them.

Their style is that of high flying country blues.

An album which has some marvellous moments which I will leave to surprise you.

A group which causes with this opus a true emotional release!”

– Salvatore Baldacchino, Backstage Radio News (Belgium)

“As has happened occasionally of late, the surprise this week’s comes from the far Australia. Mark Lucas & the Dead Setters on their CD Sideshow Alley are making typically American, or more specifically country/ Americana music. It was a surprise to find a picture of the Opera house on the inside of the sleeve and only then did it dawn on us we’re dealing with a band from Down Under. The Dead Setters feel at home playing Texas swing, country blues, honky tonk and bluegrass. Mandolin and fiddle are prominent instruments. They’ve produced songs influenced by the newer generation of songwriters as well as Hank Williams. This is already the 4th release by ML. Mark is of English descent and moved to Sydney 25 years ago. For the first 15 years he played in many bands and released his first CD in 1996. Sideshow Alley begins with a traditional sounding country song inviting you to sing along. The song is called In the Pines and its bluegrass fiddle and old time rhythm are very catchy. Seven Days sounds a lot more modern and has beautiful close harmony passages; a beautiful song!. Friday come Sunday is a relaxed western swing country song about the delights of the weekend.  Even Tex-Mex is represented in a song you might find on a release by Joe Ely. After that roots/rock with modern bluegrass elements in Your Town and the beautiful Americana ballad with dobro and steel guitar in the very strong Story of Our Life- a beauty and my favourite. The pure western swing in Jukebox Jury is the umpteenth change of style on the CD and I’ve got a premonition it hasn’t ended yet. After several bluegrass oriented songs there’s Rosie, a jewel of a song; a slow, love song with mandolin and a very nice fiddle section by John Lee. The voice of Mark Lucas is powerful throughout the whole CD but especially on the harmonies. Sisters of Mercy where the vocals of bass player CM and mandolin player Glenn Skarratt form wonderful harmonies. Home, an intimate song with Celtic flavours is an excellent closing song for this very varied, strong roots recording of a great Australian band.”

– Freddy Celis, (Netherlands)

“Mark Lucas is a singer-songwriter who has been skipping over the stones for some years and with his core group, The Dead Setters and new album Sideshow Alley he is now comfortable enough to open with a traditional song, the well-worked In the Pines. The 14 songs that follow are all words and music by Lucas and feature tons of fiddle/mandolin plus the occasional guest such as Gary Brown (dobro), Michel Rose (dobro/pedal steel), Robbie Souter (drums) and Michael Vidale (bass). The laconic vocal delivery of Lucas is in sync with the international yet very Australian slant of the material which in feel varies from hard country to swing and Mexicali and that is just in the first few songs. A few pieces are reprised from Mark’s earlier releases such as Jukebox Jury while Glenn Skarratt’s mandolin lead-in to Wind River seems to invoke not only the lost buffalo herds of the lyrics but the ecological bent of the packaging which we are told is off-set to be carbon-neutral. Only the contents are smoking and it is not dangerous to your health.”

– Keith Glass, Capital News

“As Sideshow Alley swings into life with a lively fiddle-fuelled interpretation of In the Pines, you might be concerned that you’ve waded into a tepid pool of Southwestern swing interpretations of ‘classics’. However, anyone who knows anything about Mark Lucas will testify that the man takes his songcrafting seriously, a trait that has established Lucas as a well-respected writer. Even his take on In the Pines has been significantly Lucas-ified.

And from there the album, Lucas’ fourth solo record outside The Parwills, swings and struts through 14 original compositions. While many of the sounds are genuinely traditional- swing and jazz rhythms, fiddles, mandolins and rich-toned guitars- Lucas’ voice is contemporary and, thankfully, Australian, laconically sighing out home-truths.

To spice up the accompaniment provided by the swinging Dead Setters, Lucas has recruited some guest stars, including The Flood’s James Gillard and the Bushwackers’ Mark Oats, whose fiddle helps lend the album’s western swing a bush-dance earthiness. When all this combines, along with the pedal steel of Michel Rose, in a song as strong as Story of Our Life, it’s quite some recipe.”

–  Martin Jones, Rhythms Magazine

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