Mark Kozelek, Lost Verses Live, Caldo Verde
So, Mark Kozelek has a sense of humor—who knew? “A woman on the train said, ‘Wherever you’re going with all that gear, they better appreciate you,’” the former Red House Painters singer/songwriter known for his lush, languorous ballads cracks in between songs on this live set recorded in various venues in the United States and Europe. Appreciate him they do, but then, these are rare performances by one of the most-evocative voices imaginable. Material ranges from the favorite “Carry Me Ohio” from his alter ego Sun Kil Moon, to the Neil Young-like character study “Salvador Sanchez” to Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns”—which, in his hands, somehow isn’t maudlin at all. And they are accompanied with his virtuoso finger-picking guitar style.
Lost Verses includes two Modest Mouse covers, “Four Fingered Fisherman” and “Tiny Cities,” both rendered much more delicate once that indie-band’s irony is scraped away like frost from a windshield. What isn’t included is anything from his surprisingly tender interpretations of AC/DC songs, What’s Next to the Moon. The crowd is responsive, but it’s not like a rowdy-rock concert, and the production doesn’t differ much from his typically spare studio albums so the set makes a good introduction to his work as well as a highly desirable document for those already fans. The Finally LP, with covers of Stephen Sondheim, Will Oldham, Husker Du and Low is also worth locating.
Is Michelle still shocked? Or shocking? Like many songwriters who came out of the genre’s second (third? fourth?) explosion during the late ’80s/ early ’90s, she has mellowed but hasn’t lost her fire. Soul of My Soul takes much of its subject matter from her partner Dave Willardson, as well the “evil” counterpart male figure of former President George Bush the latter. As an entry in her songwriting portfolio, the album is a surprisingly modest 35-minute set, but its relative breeziness and brevity don’t belie its place as a mark of the maturity of her abilities, as well as control, finally being able to say more with less.
Willardson gets his affectionate due in the tunes “Waterproof” and “Love’s Song,“ and Shocked’s voice has never been more expressive, without the stridence of some of her earlier, more wholly political albums. Although the disc has been released months after the election of Barack Obama, songs like “Ballad of the Battle of the Ballot and the Bullet, Pt. 1: Ugly Americans” remind us that the effects of the Bush presidency don’t end when ‘the decider’ is deposed.
She performed most of these songs as well as numbers from throughout her oeuvre this May to a packed house at The State Room.