Recorded once again at Herm Kovac’s Ramrod Studios, “Ghost” picks up where “Jukebox” left off and then takes a couple of tangents into less familiar territory. It was very interesting to make a record without having first road-tested the material, but not having performed live a great deal in the 18 months prior to recording we were obliged to take a fresh approach. We reckon it paid off but you’re the jury.
“…the Sydney troubadour himself…Terrific songwriting and musicianship…Sydney’s answer to Townes van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen.”
– Bryen Willems, Radio 2RRR
“..distinctive…plenty to keep the listener coming back.” – Keith Glass, Rhythms Magazine.
“This is a very solid Australian album.” – Bob Anthony jnr., Country Update
“Lucas’s songs tell stories worth remembering…” – David Messer, Juice
“…a genuine talent for compelling narrative…some truly exceptional brushes with lyrical genius- the urban country experience never sounded so appealing.” – M.W. Americana UK
“All in all an intriguing mixture of country, folk and blues with some pop added as well which sounds more appealing with each listen.” – Malcolm Carter, pennyblackmusic.com
“Lucas has a magical way of bringing a ‘story telling’ atmosphere to this album,
and I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to stop and take a listen…”- musicworkz ezine UK
“Lucas has a magical way of bringing a ‘story telling’ atmosphere to this album,
and I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to stop and take a listen…”
musicworkz ezine UK
Like the Jack Nolan album being released in the UK on the same date, this one appears on the label sampler on the red ‘Country’ disc – in this case the genre is a little more defined than the Nolan album, and you can almost guarantee that the major chain stores will file this one in the ‘Country’ section when it’s released on Monday (having said that, the last few Alt Country releases from this label ended up in the Rock & Pop section…..).
Now, just because I say this one is likely to end up in the ‘country’ section, doesn’t mean it’s one of those Nashville sorta country albums – far from it; if there was ever a case for an ‘Australiana’ music category, then Mark Lucas’ albums would fit it like a glove. You know what sort of music you’re likely to get from the ‘Americana’ section, even if you’ve never heard of the artist, and I see no reason why an album like this shouldn’t be called ‘Australiana’.
This album blends folk, country and blues elements with a subtle pop sound, and although I was unable to spend too long concentrating on the lyrical content at one sitting, I found a few of the songs stuck in my mind long after the CD had stopped playing. I have the distinct impression that the these songs about ‘Joe Average’ come from thoughtful insights into everyday life and love; I bet Mark Lucas is one of those guys who sits and people-watches. Lucas has a magical way of bringing a ‘story telling’ atmosphere to this album, and I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to stop and take a listen, even if they don’t stick around long enough to hear the end of the tale. This album is a bit like a collection of short stories – some you like, and read over and over; others you skip.
If you like your traditional story telling with lashings of sympathetic harmonies and some wonderful musical arrangements (I love the crying fiddle), you can’t go far wrong with this album.
Ironically, although some of the hooks are memorable, and the songs are all fine pieces are song-writing, my personal opinion is that the album suffers in as much as that not one track stands out from any other – does that mean none of the songs are any good, or does it mean that they’re all good? The inclusion of ‘Lean On Me’ on the label sampler shows an astuteness by the label which eludes the likes of me. How one can pick out 1 track from these fine tunes, to use as a priming tool, is beyond me……
Laughing Outlaw claim that they put out some rather fine Alt Country – I, for one, am not going to argue. (Hey, I don’t even like Alt Country all that much, so for me to even bother writing more than a couple of lines about the album is statement enough).
“Mark Lucas is a Sydney based singer-songwriter with over a decade of live experience and one album on the Laughing Outlaw label already under his belt, 1999’s ‘Jukebox Jury’. Lucas combines a variety of styles in his recordings, ranging from folk and country through to blues and arguably pop, but the combination works well and ‘Lost Creek Road’ as the accompanying press release hints at, manages to be both authentically americana and Australian at the same time. The opening ‘Hard Times in the Land of Plenty’ is a song Paul Kelly himself would be proud of (“Now I’m playing and I’m singing, ‘Cos that’s what gets me through the night, Yeah you may call it my obsession, Listen friend this is my life”) with a genuine talent for compelling narrative. ‘Hurt No More’ is the age old tale of love and loss but complemented with Kara Grainger’s superb backing vocals, and ‘Between the Ditches’ (a personal highlight of the album) has some truly exceptional brushes with lyrical genius – (“She brought him all the need she had and he paid her back with pain, As he beat her with his hunger or lost her in his veins”). The arrangements throughout, layered with mandolin, 12 string guitars, fiddle and dobro, are all beautifully crafted and often make even the more mediocre tracks sparkle. If there’s one downfall to the album, it could probably have done with a couple less tracks, but it’s hardly a major failing – the urban country experience has never sounded so appealing.”
– MW, Americana U.K.
“On the Ghost of Lost Creek Road Mark Lucas is attempting something specific and difficult: country music that addresses the urban experience. While sometimes it’s all a little too polite and thoughtful, for the most part it works well. Lucas’s songs tell stories worth remembering, backed by music that features plenty of twang but fortunately no big hats.”
7/10 – David Messer, Juice
“Unlike so many of his contemporaries in the new Australian country fold, Sydney-based Mark Lucas reveals no pretensions to the starstruck skyline of ’90’s Nashville on the follow-up to Jukebox Jury. This album has a lot of the trappings of traditional country and roots- his band’s playing on mandolin, steel guitar, fiddle and dobro is a fine match for Lucas’s economical guitar lines – but it’s also got an indelibly Australian sound (there’s even a didgeridoo to colour ‘Walk in Beauty’ and the title track). His images of this “great southern land” are vivid, recalling times of “rags and riches” in both urban and regional settings. ‘Don’t You know me Girl’ is the pick of the ballads, while ‘Bring me Whisky’ and ‘Martha Jane’ are among the more memorable of the upbeat tunes.”
– Time off Magazine
“Sydney based Mark Lucas has perhaps loftier ambitions than the bar room. He looks for inspiration from the heavy hitter singer-songwriter scene (maybe Guy Clark, Tom Russell) in terms of creating material with lyrical depth and has surrounded himself with class musicians such as James Gillard, Mark Marriott, Andrew Clermont, Michel Rose, Sam McNally and his producer Glenn Skarratt to achieve it.
The assembled create a pretty convincing band sound to support some solid songs from Lucas. Heavy and electric when required, acoustic and light when desired. Only a tendency to sing in a slightly stilted manner lets him down. Even so, he is distinctive and stays away from any annoying affectation. Where the city meets the country seems to be the place Mark feels thematically at home and he marks that out well, with plenty to keep the listener coming back. ‘Walk in Beauty’ is reminiscent of the kind of saga song Townes van Zandt did but is firmly rooted in an Australian location. Lucas has made great strides since his first album.”
– Keith Glass, Rhythms
“Strong lyrics and interesting variations musically are the main features of Mark Lucas’s album, The Ghost of Lost Creek Road.
Mark has combined elements of the urban storyteller with the more solid country rhythms to come up with a sound which “marries” well with his descriptive and, at times, very powerful lyrics. He draws on an equally wide variety of subjects but no matter what the topic, the sounds that accompany it are unmistakably country, be it a slow ballad or a bright upbeat tempo that gets the toes tapping.
Mark can be soulful, bluesy or capture the more traditional sound of country with a rollicking bush ballad or an upbeat swing rhythm number.
His imagery was (sic) clear and distinctly Australian.
Instrumentally, this is an interesting blend of sounds which is very refreshing. Mark doesn’t try to copy someone else and has brought a “fusion” of old and new together.
Mark is at home with his slow songs and ballads such as the gentle ‘Lean on Me’, ‘Walk in Beauty’, the emotive ‘Hurt no More’ and ‘Torchsong Lament’ as he is with the more uptempo tracks like ‘The Ghost of Lost Creek Road’, ‘Don’t You Know Me Girl’, the catchy ‘Bring Me Whisky’, the traditional bush ballad beat of ‘Martha Jane’, the swing rhythm of ‘Sweetheart’ and the Celtic feel of ‘To the Limit’.
This is a very solid Australian album and a credit to Mark as a singer/songwriter.”
– Bob Anthony Jnr, Country Update
“Somewhere between alternative country and country is where some people place the likes of Pat Drummond…and now they’ll do the same with Mark Lucas.
It’s akin to Australiana folk without quite slotting neatly into that category but Lucas’s delivery of some quite brilliant lyrics should ensure The Ghost of Lost Creek Road finds a ready market.
The standout tracks which quite cleverly describe Australia, it’s people, its environs, are ‘Walk in Beauty’, ‘Hard Times in the Land of Plenty’ and ‘The Place We Call Forever’.”
– Joan & Feyne Weaver, The Gold Coast Bulletin
“Mark Lucas moved to Australia over twenty years ago from England and gained his experience playing in a variety of groups. From playing in the London pub scene in the late 70s he has taken in country, folk, blues and rock along the way to playing with various bands in his adopted home of Sydney. Recently he gained more exposure with The Parwills whose critically acclaimed 1996 album, ‘Boothills Of Desire” was hailed as a good, solid alt country album. Lucas says that “ he doesn’t believe in pigeon-holes and never has done” when it comes to his influences but there is an undeniable traditional country flavour to the songs on this, his second solo album, although he also incorporates roots and blues into the mix.
Maybe sticking the alt country tag on Lucas is doing the songs he writes an injustice as he certainly is a cut above the rest when it comes to adding subtle textures to the music, and he also has a talent for storytelling which is sadly lacking in some of his contemporaries. But country is an obvious influence; there can be no argument there.
The opening track, ‘Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty’, which is a more rock influenced song than a country track, starts the album off with what seems to be a recurring theme; Mark’s observations of the people and places in his chosen land. Lucas succeeds in writing country music that reflects the city experience. ‘Urban Country’ is a phrase that has been used to describe Mark’s music and it’s an apt description. It would be unfair, however, to go overboard on the country influence. The track, ‘Hurt No More’, for example is a tale of love and loss with some excellent Lucas lyrics, “ Remember the time I held you back when you were bound to fall/You said I was worth my weight in gold/Now that’s worth nothing at allAnd a short time may have passed but a lifetime is walking out that door”. It’s the stunning backing vocals from Kara Grainger which take the song from good singer songwriter territory though and push it into a great, almost soul influenced song which is sung with pure emotion. Not a trace of country there.
Mark’s talent for storytelling is non more apparent than on ‘Between The Ditches’ with fiddle and Dobro colouring the tale of Cherry who “drove a kwiksnacks truck by day” and spent her time dodging roving hands before climbing “back into her Ford, her own no-man’s land”. It’s a sad tale of a girl taking the wrong directions and ending up back home “at rest in the family plot”. “There are no street signs, ‘tween rags and riches, and it’s a long way home, between the ditches” sings Mark while the fiddle and Dobro weave in and out sympathetically. In fact, Mark’s choices of instruments, which are played brilliantly throughout, really do add texture to his songs. Apart from the usual suspects of mandolin and steel guitar as well as the fiddle and Dobro, Mark also uses a didjeridoo on a couple of tracks. One of these songs is ‘Walk In Beauty’ which is possibly the strongest song on this set. It’s an atmospheric tale of coming “up from the country and I moved to your town, and I’m looking for the good life, the one I heard about”. Eventually realising that the streets are not paved with gold he nevertheless shows some optimism with the line, “I’ll admit that things ain’t looking good but I won’t admit defeat”.
Having given this album repeated listens it appears that Mark does have a point about not being pigeonholed. The trad country feel of some of the tracks that seemed to set the flavour for the album actually diminishes, as the songs become more familiar. For every country tune like ‘Martha Jane’ there is a song like ‘Torchsong Lament’, an aching ballad which owes as much to folk music as it does country. Mark’s superb lyrical touch is present and correct on this track too, “So here I sit between these four walls, drunk on the hope of a late phone call”.
All in all Lucas has assembled an intriguing mixture of country, folk and blues with some pop added in as well which sounds more appealing with each listen. Judging by the songs on this album we are going to hear a lot more from Mark Lucas in the future and this album is going to be picked up and played for a good while yet.”
-Malcolm Carter, pennyblackmusic.com
Mark Lucas is a Sydney based singer and songwriter whose sound is a blend of country, folk and blues, which has been developed with a keen ear for a tune and a bluegrass twist. Vocally sounding a little like cross between Dylan and David Byrne there is plenty of character in the performances on display here, and after a few listens you find that the warmth of ‘Ghost of Lost Creek Road’ starts to grow on you and begins to glow as fully fledged and tastefully executed performances drive themselves home. This is Lucas’s second album, the follow up to 1999’s ‘Jukebox Jury’ and is brim full of well observed, thoughtful songs and musically the country trail is kept on track with some stunning and tasteful fiddle, mandolin, dobro and steel guitar.
Opening up with “Hard Times in the land of Plenty” a song that resonates both thematically and musically with an element of ‘Lonesome Jubilee’ era Mellencamp, then we are off on a joyous ride through Americana with an Australian flavour. “Ghost of Lost Creek Road” rolls along with all the essential country and bluegrass elements in place and features a storming steel solo and fine flowing fiddle lines. “Don’t you know me Girl” and “Lean on Me” are supported by some delicate violin lines, the former featuring luscious harmonies both benefiting from that hauntingly lonesome fiddle playing and some touches of atmospheric steel guitar. Opposing ends of the musical scale are visited serving up a mix of livelier up tempo bluegrass and slower but no less heartfelt ballads like “Torchsong Lament” which is nicely book ended by “Bring Me whiskey” and “Martha Jane” which showcase the contrasting styles on display in a neat little nine minute package. “Sweetheart” and “Run For Cover” allow some laid back jazz inlflected blues to spice up the mix before “To the Limit” (surely an Alison Krauss outtake) and the powerful “The Place we call Forever” and a lovely, yet untitled hidden track wrap things up in formidable style.
After a while you may begin to notice that Lucas’s music has many similarities with that of Texan Robert Earl Keen, there is a similar use of instrumentation and the keen observational and occasionally witty lyrics are also a common issue. Occasionally straying into bluesy and jazz territory the flavour of the album is very tastefully compiled. The playing on this album is precise and eloquent, there is obviously a real feel for bluegrass which filters through on almost every track, even occasionally mixing with the native Australian digeridoo on the excellent “Walk in Beauty”. This is a very strong album, and the strength lays in the more traditional country moments rather than the rock and blues influenced pieces. There is clearly an excellent band of musicians on board which helps keep things tight, and given the weight of quality material here, the whole thing comes across as a real winner.
– *** Doug Floyd, AltCountryTab.com
Mark’s a Sydney-based singer-songwriter who migrated from England around 20 years ago. He spins stories of ordinary people and the world we inhabit, expressed with a realism tempered by an often dry wit. The Ghost Of Lost Creek Road, his second album (Jukebox Jury came out in 1999), carves Mark’s connection with his adopted home even deeper, through honest observations of the people and the land itself. Although many of his songs have the overt trappings of traditional-style country (fiddle, mandolin, steel, dobro), Mark mostly manages to escape any potential charge of merely peddling antipodean Americana. Aside from the “barking didgeridoo” on one track (Walk In Beauty), there’s no shoutingly obvious Australian sound to this album, and certainly no sense of alienation for the listener. Rather, the sense of place is rooted in the lyrics, as on the mesmerising “official” closer The Place We Call Forever for instance. The wonderful uncredited bonus track (All On The Borderline?) is a sparse philosophical treat, and Bring Me Whiskey is a great Burrito-style slice of what you could probably term the nearest thing to authentic Australian honky-tonk – though on other tracks Mark’s perceptive portrayal of real life situations is every bit as much in the mould of Townes van Zandt or Tom Russell, you might say (just sample Between The Ditches and you’ll hear what I mean). Mark gets charismatic support from a pool of classy musicians too (James Gillard, Mark Marriott, Mark Oats, Andrew Claremont, Michel Rose and Robbie Souter), and a finely-toned production courtesy of Glenn Skarratt that copes equally well with acoustic or electric textures.
– David Kidman, netrhythms.com
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