2018 –Mark Harrison / Highway Records
By Phillip Smith; Oct. 6, 2018
I absolutely adored Mark Harrison’s 2016 album, Turpentine. His latest release, The Panoramic View, described by Harrison himself as his magnum opus, now takes precedence. The UK-based roots artist is one of the best songwriters around, and I especially take notice when this man tackles the Blues with a nostalgic story-telling approach. With Harrison performing on National and 12-string guitars, the rest of the band consists of Charles Benfield on double bass, Ben Welburn on drums/percussion, Paddy Milner on piano, Paul Tkachenko on tuba, trombone, trumpet, and mandolin, and Ed Hopwood on harmonica. For a fascinating and unique twist, Harrison enlists Scottish television personality Gail Porter to provide a spoken word introduction prior to each song.
I love the sound of the National on “House Full of Children”. It sounds go great paired with the horns on this upbeat homage to Detroit bluesman Eddie ‘Guitar’ Burns. Harrison takes a deep look inside the words of Son House as he describes the meaning of life, and the Blues in “What Son House Said”. His performance is delicate and endearing. Harrison sings about life after death in “Meet on the Other Side”, a splendid country blues spiritual. A timeless melody and a subject matter everyone has experienced is the heart of “Mess is Everywhere”. With timely blurts from his tuba, Tkachenko keeps the song moving along its tracks. While on the subject of tracks, “John the Chinaman” honors the railroad Chinese immigrant laborers who made up the majority of the transcontinental railways workforce in the 1850’s. Harrison’s bright finger work on guitar keeps a locomotive pace on this delightful blues ditty.
From beginning to end, The Panoramic View is an exquisite listen. Harrison’s declaration of this being his magnum opus, certainly stands true.
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