Mark Thomann releases his debut album
Mark Thomann, from Weston Creek, ACT, pulled his debut album together over the last three years while in self imposed isolation and recovery from heart failure.
The ten-track album is a serious but fun look at life that leaves the listener both humming and musing on the hook lines.
The album is described as story driven country blues songs with quirky lyrics, catchy hook lines and grooves that take you to the heart of modern Australia and back again.
The title song, “Plastic Flowers” takes a different angle on love and flowers as a metaphor for the transience of relationships, with plastic flowers being the obvious solution!
But the real love song is probably “Bush Rocket”, which celebrates Mark’s travels through the heart of Australia in his beloved “battered old Troopy” and explores the divide between urban and rural life.
The country rock song “Seven Long Years” and the more folky “Where’s Summer Gone?” take a lively but personal look at the impacts of climate change.
While much of the album is positive and upbeat, a couple of tracks are more reflective such as “My Father’s Voice” and “Coming Back”.
“Those songs took time and effort to get them (and me) into shape”, Mark said.
“It was worth the effort, maybe music really can mend a broken heart!
“While I am proud of my songs, this album is also worth a listen for Stuart King’s guitar playing and the other great Canberra musicians playing on the album,” Mark added.
The album was launched on February 5 at the Canberra Irish Club and it was also released digitally on the same date.
The album was recorded, mixed and mastered locally by David Pendragon at Pendragon Studio in Charnwood, ACT.
For fifty years, Mark has been playing country/blues/roots songs, but his earliest musical influence was his Dad who played piano accordion and loved swing jazz bands, the romantic European classical composers and, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Mark spent many hours listening to his Dad’s record collection until the fateful day he discovered 70s country/blues/rock, picked up a guitar and then joined a semi-professional band called Blackwood Creek as their young bass player.
That was the ‘70s in Tasmania and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.
Throughout his management career, he continued to play and write songs across genres but found himself drawn back to the songwriting vibe of the ‘60s and ‘70s in pursuit of a good story and an unforgettable hook.
His songs are nostalgic in part for those sounds and times while pursuing the art of storytelling relevant to today’s issues and stories.
How would he describe his songs? – well, just think Nostalgia Rock meets Indie on the road to Tamworth and winds up in Memphis.
Mark first learnt the art of playing in a band in the Launceston Railway Silver Band.
It was a formative experience, especially the sombre occasions playing in Anzac Day parades and the resonant emotive sounds of the solo trombone or euphonium.
But the draw of the guitar (and rock ‘n’ roll!) was irresistible and he moved on to playing various styles of guitar which can all be heard in his songwriting.
Some of his biggest influences include Jim Croce, Bonnie Raitt, Dan Hicks, Eric Bibb, Taj Mahal, the Zac Brown Band, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
The highlight of his career to date has been the release of his first album and playing with some of Canberra’s best musicians such as Stuart King (guitar), Matt Nightingale (bass), Jonathan Jones (drums), Valdis Thomann (trombone), Dan Mclean (trumpet), Dan Bray (saxophone) and Dave O’Neill (fiddle and mandolin).
Another highlight was having his son arrange the horn parts and play trombone on the album.
Valdis remembers some of the songs from his childhood which he channels into his solos on the album, and so the story comes full circle.
CD review by Tony Smith
TN158 – Oct 23
This 2022 CD of some eleven tracks is a nicely balanced blues album, which is no surprise as it is the creation of Mark Thomann, a musician with experience, skill and passion.
The album of original songs, written and arranged by Thomann, begins with the title track and ends with a reprise ‘Raw Mix’ which seems to me to be every bit as good listening as the opening song.
The addition of brass takes ‘Ain’t No Way’ into the Vaudeville blues genre, approaching the soul side.
Other tracks include ‘Bush Rocket’, ‘My Father’s Voice’, ‘Never Too Old’, ‘Sugar Daddy Blues’ which has traces of Louisiana blues, ‘Coming Back’ for which Thomann sings deep down, and ‘Where’s Summer Gone?’.
Meanwhile, ‘Seven Long Years’ is rockabilly with bass backing and a catchy fiddle introduction.
To my ear, Thomann’s voice is heard at its best on this track.
In the spirit of reconciliation, Thomann acknowledges the elders, past, present and future of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples of the Canberra region.
The song, ‘The Country Makes Music’, shows clearly that he has a love for the land.
He might lack a map, but knows where he is going.
The sun is on his face, the breeze at his back.
Thomann is on the right track!
This song is the most memorable and probably most likely to be covered by other artists.
Thomann, who sings and plays guitar, acknowledges input from several musicians, and gives special mention to Stuart King on electric and acoustic guitars.
In support are Matt Nightingale (bass), Jonathan Jones (drums and percussion), Valdis Thomann (horn, arrangements, trombone), Dan McLean (trumpet), Dan Bray (saxophone), David Abkiewicz (Sousaphone), Dave O’Neill (fiddle, mandolin) and Ed Drury (didgeridoo).
The arrangements are generally excellent and the instruments never overwhelm Thomann’s voice with its all important delivery of the lyrics.
Thomann also thanks David Pendragon and Jack Buchanan for the production side and Indigo Philip for the artwork on the very colourful sleeve, as well as several friends and supporters.
The result of their efforts and Thomann’s creative direction is an album that is very presentable visually and aurally.
Plastic flowers ‘never die’ and long may Mark Thomann sing his blues.
Mark Thomann – Plastic Flowers
CD review by Tony Magee, Canberra City News
Combining country rock and country blues, Plastic Flowers is a mostly upbeat joyful album of songs, contrasted with two reflective ballads, ‘My Father’s Voice’ and ‘Coming Back’.
Recorded over a three year period, Thomann says: “Plastic Flowers takes a different angle on love and flowers as a metaphor for the transience of relationships.”
A Canberra boy, Mark has chosen some of Canberra’s other finest Canberra musicians to play with him on the album.
Guitarist Stuart King is prominently featured along with Matt Nightingale (bass), Jonathan Jones (drums), son Valdis Thomann (trombone), Dan Mclean (trumpet), Dan Bray (saxophone) and Dave O’Neill (fiddle and mandolin).
Thomann cites some of his biggest influences as Jim Croce, Bonnie Raitt, Dan Hicks, Eric Bibb, Taj Mahal, the Zac Brown Band, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
Comparisons can also be made with Gordon Lightfoot, not stylistically in the music, but in the varied range of subjects and deep thought in his lyrics, both hallmarks of Lightfoot.
Thomann’s earliest music influence was his father, who played piano accordion and loved swing jazz bands, romantic European classical composers, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
In 1970’s Tasmania, he suddenly found the draw of the guitar irresistible, joining a band called “Blackwood Creek” and from there, formed his own style of country blues and country rock.
Mark describes his songs as: “Nostalgia Rock meets Indie on the road to Tamworth winding up in Memphis.”
The title track, ‘Plastic Flowers’ is upbeat and heavy.
Thomann sings with a strong baritone range voice and has excellent diction, something so incredibly important considering the thought and time he has spent on his lyrics.
‘Ain’t Know Way’ has a cheeky musical introduction.
It’s central point is a kind of “wake up and smell the roses” – live life to the fullest and don’t get caught up too much in dramatic world affairs.
A simple approach to life.
‘This Country Makes Music’ also hints at life’s simple pleasures – “I’ve got the sun on my back, a breeze in my face, maybe I’ll catch me a fish or two”.
‘Seven Long Years’ begins with a heavy electric guitar intro, joined by the full band, including some excellent brass feature passages.
This song defines the “country rock” genre most clearly on this album.
‘Where’s Summer Gone’ is a medium tempo country / folk song featuring the excellent fiddle playing of Dave O’Neil.
In this, as with many of the songs on this album, references to nature, the seasons and the environment feature prominently.
‘Sugar Daddy Blues’ begins with a long guitar intro, morphing into a blues style with the full band.
The lyric suggests advice for a young woman who needs to move on from being supported by her “Sugar Daddy” and find her own way through life.
The closing track, ‘Coming Back’ is a reflective ballad with just guitar and bass accompaniment.
After years of absence, a young man is coming back to his true love.
I enjoyed listening to this album very much.
Although country rock and country blues are not styles that I usually listen to, hearing these songs opened up a new musical door for me.
I’d like to hear more.
My only reservation is that there are no vocal harmonies on any of the tracks.
Thomann’s voice is clear and powerful, but some harmonies in places would add something special.