The trajectory of Mark Lucas’s career is akin to tracing a bird in flight. Perpetually restless, banking and diving and always observing – it is these characteristics, among others, that allow his unique lyrical view on the world.
In Sydney, Australia, his home since 1981, Lucas wears an awful lot of hats. Venue manager. Band booker. Activist. Adding yet another cap, he is a prolific singer-songwriter whose productive output is as inspiring as it is diverse.
During the 1980s, Mark experimented with rock and pop, before returning to his country and folk roots in the 1990s. These are not just stories; they are as much observational as they are impressionistic. True to his English heritage as a songwriter to match Graham Parker or Elvis Costello, he also has cynicism to burn.
With the forthcoming release of Prisoners of the Heart, Mark draws deep from his 22-year career as a solo artist and bandleader, as songwriter and masterful lyricist. His songs, like those of his heroes, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and Guy Clark, do not always tend to the personal over the abstract. In fact, sometimes the opposite is just as true.
The 20-track CD Prisoners of the Heart draws from Lucas’s ten-album output, with the focus on his adroitly authored songs. His inspirations come from the worlds he inhabits, the people whose lives brush up against his.
This retrospective album tells many inspired stories of different lives, contrasting almost impressionistic lyrics with the more direct story song approach, like the cautionary tale of ‘Between The Ditches’ against ‘Shopping Town’, a meditation on commercial enterprise taking on real lives.
Whether working with his long-time backing group, the Dead Setters, or crafting his own guitar-and-voice meditations, he captures something special from the crumbs of the everyday. Like one of his inspirations, Guy Clark, he makes plain the idea that “some days you write the song/ some days the song writes you”.
This bountiful collection is an enjoyable retrospective of Mark Lucas’s career during the period 1996-2018.
Lucas, who is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Australia, certainly knows how to create wonderfully melodic country and folk music. He whips up a palpable air of melancholy on the brooding “Rosie”, an evocative track which could fit neatly into Dan Sultan’s solo set, as Lucas displays an assured and perfectly pitched soulfulness that complements the subtle yet haunting guitar.
Lucas displays his lyrical prowess on the quietly dramatic “Whitewall Tyres”, which with great humanity paints a realistic picture of the messiness and contradictions inherent in everyday life. This insightful song could easily form the basis of an engaging feature length movie as it encompasses rich character sketches and a compelling narrative arc.
The poignant “Small Town Blues” marries a jaunty toe tapping melody with incisive social commentary that conjures the aching sense of loss that can permeate towns that wither rather than flourish. Filled with such memorable songs and expressive lyrics, this twenty track retrospective CD provides an impressive glimpse into the career of a skilled troubadour.