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Gravity Levitates Above the Madding Crowd

Paul Mark's 11th studio album rises to meet the noise

"Have you heard? Gravity is failing." The opening line from the title track of Paul Mark and The Van Dorens newest release Gravity immediately draws you into a clanking carnival of pop Americana spiked with Mark's trademark lyricism. With one eye on the boundaries of roots-Americana songwriting and the other on a society in disarray, Gravity is Mark's 11th studio album.

Asked if politics informed his latest collection, Mark’s is cryptic. “Other than Brecht and Bob Marley, I don’t really care much for overtly political lyrics. Maybe because the half-life of political lyrics is often predictably short. The best songs carry their own context with them, they don't rely on the context of today's news to make them reverberate.”

The songs on Gravity nonetheless evince a writer who’s been following current events. A lot. And with its release date almost exactly coinciding with a crescendo of public unrest in the American streets, Gravity similarly roils with rebellion below its masterful arrangements and lyrical slight-of-hand. With a dollop of Mark’s trademark wit.

“All the Gravity tracks were written, recorded and mixed long before the crises of 2020 hit,” says Mark. “So no, I was not sitting at the piano two months ago reading headlines then speed-writing songs about the day's news. Personal songwriters generally write about personal things. Maybe what’s happening now is that we’re living through an extended time when the personal is particularly political.

“It's really unlikely that a song that explicitly describes events, or worse, beliefs, can work,” he adds. “A songwriter is smarter when the story they write gives details of some unreliable narrator’s reaction to some event or belief. By indirectly telling the story this way the writer drills into to the facts and into the mystery of the situation. Which is always more provocative for the listener.”

Mark says the final song written for Gravity, completed in January of this year, was Waiting Round for You. “A New Orleans piano song, with a melodic nod to The Kinks. Not political at all. Although maybe a song about a person who’s never showing up on time might just be a little bit political,” he adds with a wink.

Nonetheless, the coincidence of Gravity‘s release with the current upheaval in the streets reveals a remarkable creative prescience. “I do read the papers. Every day,” Mark notes. “And yeah, I do get angry. Sometimes about stuff that hasn't even happened yet.”


Hiway UK Revisited:
Deconstructing The Yardbirds' Heart Full of Soul

Ramping Up the Vintage Guitar Tones and Upending a British Invasion Classic

With his latest single Paul Mark covers Heart Full of Soul, which was written by Graham Goulman and first charted by Brit-rock innovators the Yardbirds in 1965. Recorded in New York City, Mark takes this classic track and weaves his trademark trash-can vocal style over showcase vintage guitar sounds. 

“I listened to this track all the time when I was a kid,” says Mark. “It was on an LP on the Epic label titled The Yardbirds Greatest Hits. Jeff Beck’s mind-blowing guitar part was the centerpiece of the track. This was before Zepplin or Are You Experienced? or metal music of any sort.

“So the sonic impact was very strong. The guitar was being pushed to this higher energy level, much higher than, say, the Beatles. Blues dudes in Chicago were already creating these sorts of powerful electric sounds way before then. But it was exciting to hear young white kids from Britain doing it.

“I'd been playing this song since I was a teenager, fooling around with different arrangements. Awhile back I demo'd a couple of acoustic guitar versions of it. Then about a year ago a good friend of mine gave me an obscure vintage electric guitar, a really cool looking instrument. 

“I pulled out some old pedals and amps to see how the guitar sounded, using Heart Full of Soul as a trial song. Before you know it I was producing a finished track.”

Mark’s complete production notes, including a history of the Contessa guitar used on the track, are included in the liner notes that appear on the CD version of Heart Full of Soul. 

Vaudeville Caberet and Brechtian Angst Stew Up on Stowaways

Saloon-Sonic Piano Sits Center Stage on PM's Latest CD Release

Stowaways cuts a new creative path, with Paul Mark performing on piano on every one of the ten new cabaret-ready tracks. It's Mark's 10th studio release, recorded in Manhattan and released in late 2015.

Time-worn vocals and transcendent songwriting sit front and center in a soundscape that fuses dystopian rants with romantic lullabys. A full string section is used on several tracks, lending a nostalgic counterpoint to Mark's world-weary crank vocals.

“Maybe some folks'll be happy to hear that on this record I’ve set aside the guitar for a spell? I think my neighbors were pleased, anyway," says Mark. “Actually the upright piano and strings open up all sorts of contrasts and tonal possibilities that are real different from the straight-ahead guitar approach. It's a texture that sits okay with the sort of music I've been writing lately.”

The new collection is true to the lyrical density and backhanded irony familiar to listeners of Mark’s previous work. He also plays acoustic bass, guitars and keyboards, along with a junkbox full of pawn shop instruments. The set includes a cover of Mack the Knife that harkens back not to Bobby Darin's familiar '59 swing hit but rather to the world-gone-mad Brecht/Weill original from 1928.

The new CD was co-mixed by Mark and his long-time collaborator, Memphis music maven Jeff Powell, and assisted in the control room by Lucas Peterson, who's contributed engineering expertise to numerous Paul Mark projects. “I’m grateful both those guys are still willing to work with me, I’d be lost without them,” says Mark. “Actually I suspect the only reason they hang is because I usually pick up the booze tab during the sessions.”



Smartest Man Re-Schools and Re-Tools the Blues

Warehouse On Fire! - Toxic Fumes - May Be Harmful to Pets, Children

Smartest Man in the Room is the latest roots rock standard from PAUL MARK & the Van Dorens.

If you're waiting to hear this sorta Rad-Records industrial noise production on your favorite rock radio, TV-talent show, Internet-soft-rock stream broadcast, well, don't hold your breath. Deep inhale...then step outa that little world for a second and check into this stink bomb of a record. Tired of corporate-controlled culture? Had enough of the celebrity-infused rainbow of nobody-gives-a-sh#*-except-to-make-some-green sounds mechanically pulsing out of your ear buds? Well then Smartest Man is the I'm-so-fed-up-I'm-gonna-sleep-in-a-tent record you need to hear.

Smartest Man in the Room is a roots-rock dynamite stick lobbed into today’s music-biz garbage culture cocktail party. This production assembles a whole new model of what today’s music can and should be. Raw and original, this set of thematically-connected blues-based performances jabs a thumb in the eye of not just the music industry – yeah, easy target – but it goes after the big boys, the NYC and LA 1% who hold court over what can and can’t be said in the cultural marketplace. Fasten your frayed seat belt – the cats in charge are going to freak when they hear – and see – Smartest Man. As will first-time listeners to Paul Mark. Even the smart ones.

Oh, and you can dance to it. This stew-pot of lyrical provocation and warehouse noise - created with iconoclastic abandon by P.Mark and his Van Dorens crack team - was custom fabricated out of the NYC-street scene and infused with the we-just-need-to-do-this attitude that, 15 years later, you found out was the common thread to all the cool records you always loved.

Smartest Man was recorded in New Orleans and Memphis. The audio tones crank and dive in a swirl of lyrical humor and accusation, and the production reflects everything sound engineers were told NOT to do in school. Mark's songwriting once again points to that strange poetry dance between contemplation and gut feel, and the band's groove sticks hard to the seismic pulse of the street. Yeah, you definitely can move to it.

Sure you can download all the tracks. But if you do you'll miss the cover art. Doesn't matter? Well, someday you may learn. Get this CD. And maybe things will begin to change.

Screw the publicity gibberish...Check out this YouTube vid of the Texas-tinged cover of Dylan's Don't Ya Tell Henry. Or for you smart guys, watch the title toon vid, sweating with current-events accusation. If you aren't getting it, go ask your teacher.

Coat of Paint  Premier Single fromSmartest Man

Raucous CD/Download Single Explodes with Warehouse Ambience

One More Coat of Paint will be released on April 20, 2012! This brand new song, penned by Mark, is the first single from Paul Mark and the Van Dorens' soon to be released CD Smartest Man in the Room.

The new track was recorded in New Orleans, and is the first taste of the band's crazed-warehouse sound that evolved during the sessions. "This CD pushes at the edge a bit harder, I'd say," says Mark. "There's this industrial grit tone that we were shooting for - the kinda sound that would scare a dog - and this first track catches a bit of that."

Listen to a sample here. Go here to get a copy of the CD Single or to download an MP3 version!

The complete new CD Smartest Man in the Room will be released in late May 2012.

"We figured it was a good idea to give our friends a taste of what the band's been up to," Mark says. "Smartest Man will be out in late May, so this track is a bit of a preview. Or a warning. Whatever."


Smartest Man in the Room is Born in New Orleans

Raw Blues Originals Recorded in the Crescent City

A new collection of music by Paul Mark & the Van Dorens is currently in postproduction and is slated for release in early 2012. The new CD is to be titled Smartest Man in the Room and release on Radiation Records.

Co-producing the sessions with Mark is long-time collaborator and Memphis music maestro Jeff Powell. Most of the basic tracks were recorded in Summer 2011 at the Music Shed, one of the premier working studios in the New Orleans.

“I largely succeeded in keeping the musicians out of the bars for several long spells, so we ended up with some really great tracks," says Mark. "Of course no one’s perfect, and as a result there are now several establishments in the French Quarter where we will never be welcomed again.

"New Orleans is one of those places where all the horrors of its past make you believe you could live there for some time with interest," says Mark. "Like Berlin. Like New York. Like Paris, San Francisco. The chill factor…it worked well for us.”

After his acoustic guitar departure (Mirage Cartography) Mark and the band are once again working in the muscular roots rock tradition of the Van Dorens. "For me there was a good year of lonely finger-picking, working on Mirage. Now my mind has regressed into the realm of troubadour blues-rock," says Mark. "It was nice while it lasted."

[Photo: Andrea Zucker]

Gold Medal to Mirage Cartography Cover Art

Society of Illustrators Selects CD Cover from Hundreds of Entries

The Society of Illustrators has awarded its 53rd annual gold medal in advertising artwork to the design and cover artwork of Paul Mark’s recently released collection of acoustic guitar instrumentals titled Mirage Cartography (RDTN 5909). The remarkable gatefold cover illustration to the Radiation Records release was created by Chris Buzelli (www.ChrisBuzelli.com).

The prestigious award competition was judged by a broad panel of illustrators and art directors who selected the winner from a field of nearly 1,000 entries from across many industries. “I'm just really proud and thrilled that we won,” says Buzelli. “It's sort of like the Oscars for illustrators and art directors.

“I really connected to the title of the album,” he added. “I listened to one of the first tracks on the album and I was hooked. The album played in the background while I painted the cover.”

Founded in 1901, the NYC-based Society of Illustrators’ (www.societyillustrators.org) ongoing mission is to provide illustrators with a center to discuss, demonstrate and exhibit their work. Over the decades its august history has included participatory roles by some of America’s greatest illustrators, including Maxfield Parish, N.C. Wyeth, Charles Dana Gibson and Frederic Remington.

A gallery show celebrating the year’s award winners will take place from Feb. 23, 2011 through March 19 at the Society’s headquarters in New York City. At the show’s official opening on March 4 gold medals will be awarded to Chris for his brilliant illustration and to Paul Mark as art director of the project.

“I could tell that Paul understood how to get the best work out of an artist,” says Chris. “I'm sure it had something to do with his experience as a musician. He said to me one of the best things that an art director could say to an illustrator: ‘I just want you to do your thing.’”

Read the entire Radiation Records press release. See the cover art here.

Guitar Dreamscape Mirage Cartography Paints With Sound 

Instrumental Roots Guitar at Its Most Refined

The new CD from Paul Mark, titled Mirage Cartography, hits the street on Sept. 22, 2010, a much anticipated guitar instrumental collection that brims a with the introspective tunefulness and compositional depth familiar to fans of his earlier instrumental CD, Roadside Americana.

But with Mirage Cartography the melodies and the backwoods instrumentation are pushed even further into the meditative wilderness, with Mark’s tranquil approach and showcase guitar technique flowing richly through each song. The styles vary unexpectedly, from Piedmont fingerpicking, to lap steel tranquility, to 12-string whip-saw flat-picking to straight-up ragtime blues. And lots of detours in between.

“It was time for me to take a break from the band and the road work and get back to the acoustic sound,” says Mark. “I'm not one to whine on about mysterious inspirations from afar. But the project came to me relatively quickly as a whole, with each track complimenting some other track and reverberating in a kind of sonic weave. A rootsy, organic concept took hold, with every idea feeding off another. Very invigorating and satisfying to pull it all together, though there were months of woodsheding required to get my hands back in shape for this type of playing.”

The entire CD of acoustic guitar dreamscapes was composed by Mark and was recorded in New York City and in Memphis TN. All the instruments throughout were played by Mark, with the exception of a dreamy blues guitar centerpiece, titled Mirage Avenue #2, where his band the Van Dorens step in seamlessly to propel the collection into the R&B realm. Working hand in hand on the project was his long time friend and collaborator Jeff Powell, who mixed the CD.

“It’s really not a album for our times,” Mark adds ironically, “in that Mirage Cartography was conceived to be heard in one sitting. In this day and age when songs are purchased and played individually – the way I used to buy 45s when I was a kid – how many people really listen to entire albums anymore? Well, I do anyway. And I like to think there are a few people left out there who recognize and embrace the rewards of that sort of approach to music listening. And those are the folks who should check this out.”

New Paul Mark Instrumental Album in Production

Solo Roots Guitar Collection Takes Up the Path Set by Roadside Americana 

The next CD by Paul Mark is in the recording stage and is planned as an all-instrumental solo collection of guitar-based originals. The new CD looks to be a continuation of the rootsy stylings of Mark's earlier solo guitar effort, Roadside Americana, released back in 1999.

"No title for it yet," Mark says, "But we're working on it. I'm back into that acoustic, rural sound. Private music. With lots of live miking of real guitars. Not really a Van Dorens record, but I know the folks who like the Americana element of our band will like the backporch attitude of this new record. A hand sliding up a guitar neck. Steel strings pressing against a fretboard. A foot tapping on the floor. Encoded messages, spiritual visions and tons of melody."

Tracking for the new CD has already begun, with recording sessions at Ardent Studios in Memphis and at Radiation Records in New York City. As with all Radiation Records releases, the music will be available from ITunes, CDBaby and a broad array of retailers and download sites.

These latest sessions have also included tracks for a new Van Dorens CD release as well. "We laid down several tracks with the full band while we were in Memphis, and they'll be part of the next Van Dorens CD. Some very raucous stuff, great rhythm tracks. The band keeps rolling forward like some horror movie beast. It can't really be stopped."

Blood & Treasure On Sale Now!

New Paul Mark CD Available in Stores and Online

Blood & Treasure, the brand new collection by Paul Mark & the Van Dorens, is now on sale throughout North America, both in brick-and-mortar stores as well as at Internet storefronts CDBabyITunes, and Amazon.com.

Cut in Memphis, Tennessee at legendary Ardent Studios, Blood & Treasure (RDTN 5901) was co-produced by Paul Mark and Jeff Powell (Big Star, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Afghan Whigs, B.B. King, The Bottle Rockets). This is Mark’s seventh CD on the NYC-based indie label Radiation Records.

Blood & Treasure is the highly-anticipated follow-up to Mark’s celebrated 2006 release Trick Fiction (RDTN 5899). The new release builds on Paul Mark’s growing word-of-mouth legacy with a live, no-holds-barred roots rock sound. This is emotional, thinking-person’s music that overlays a contemporary singer/songwriter sensibility on to the Americana legacy of blues, soul, and raucous rock’n roll. Blood & Treasure spills over with classic Americana rhythms and provocative vocals that demand attention - the rave reviews are already piling up.

True to form, the band’s new tracks cut across a wide spectrum of musical genres and styles. A national radio promotion campaign is underway in the blues, AAA, jam band and Americana radio markets at hundreds of stations across North America and Europe. 

“Always exciting for us to have some new music to play for our fans and friends,” said Mark about Blood & Treasure. “And people are picking up on this one so fast -- sales are much quicker than for our previous CDs...Can B-movie cameos, celebrity divorces and jailhouse mug shots be far behind?.”

Blood & Treasure can be purchased online at CDBaby.comITunes, Amazon.com as well as in brick-and-mortar retail stores such as J&R Music.

New Paul Mark CD in the Works

Fall Release Planned

Winter's chill has sent Paul Mark & the Van Dorens south once again! Holing up at Memphis's Ardent Studios the band is currently working on a new collection of songs. Release is tentatively scheduled for fall 2008 on Radiation Records.

Keeping with a proven formula, the sessions are being produced by Paul Mark and his Memphis cohort Jeff Powell. The working title for the new release is Blood and Treasure.

"So far so good," says PM. "We're working with some very cool Memphis people on this one and the tracks are sounding great. Moving a little different direction these days...the spectrum of styles is a bit wider I think. Seems like everything we've been trying has hit the mark. 'Course maybe I'm deaf and dumb after all these years. That's one reason why we've got Jeff in the room, to rein in the delusions."

Memphis folks who are working with the band on the sessions include Harry Peel, Rick Steff, Susan Marshall and Jackie Johnson.

Keep an eye on the web site for further details on the new release. And get on the mailing list so Radiation Records can make sure you're in the loop.

Trick Fiction on a Roll!

Airplay on Hundreds of North American Radio Stations

TRICK FICTION, the latest CD by Paul Mark & the Van Dorens contains a fresh batch of Paul Mark originals accompanied by the righteous rhythms of the Van Dorens. The new Radiation Records release was recorded and mixed at famed Ardent Studios in Memphis TN and has been a hit on the roots rock radio scene.

The CD is currently being played on hundreds of blues and rock stations across North America, both over the airwaves and on Internet channels. Critical acclaim and awards for the release just keep rolling in. And with the signing of a distribution agreement between Radiation Records and big-time indie distributor Select-O-Hits, TRICK FICTION can be found in brick-and-mortar retail stores across the U.S.

TRICK FICTION, with the band's trademark eclecticism and relentless lyrical inventiveness, reaffirms PM's status as one of the finest roots rock/blues songwriters working today. And the NYC-based band, with James Strain on bass, Josh Wheeler on drums and Dan Schnapp on organ, is spot-on in delivering that lean-forward R&B propulsion that the band has become known for after decades of road work.

"It got to the point where we had so much new material that we had to cut a CD," says Mark. "We were performing and rehearsing non-stop but never seemed to make our way into the recording studio. By the time we recorded Trick Fiction I'd written more than two albums worth of material and the band was sounding slam-bang tight...great rhythm tracks. A lot of stuff ended up on the cutting room floor...As it turned out we were arguing among ourselves about which tracks to keep. I guess we'll release the outtakes some day to counter the bootleggers, you know, the way real rock stars do."

Co-piloting the production with Mark was long-time band confidant and Memphis music maven Jeff Powell, who also engineered and mixed the sessions. "Powell's like fifth member of the band at this point," says Mark. "We'd already worked together on MetSwamp and IndigoVertigo, so our comfort level is real high," says Mark. "That is, we're real comfortable arguing with each other." Powell's wife, high-octane talent Susan Marshall, contributed deep soul background vocals to the Trick Fiction tracks, paired up with the sweet harmonies of Memphis gospel great Jackie Johnson.


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