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CD REVIEW: Mike Marino & his Restless Soul - Last of the Heartland
By Ben Ohmart - 06/11/2001 - 06:41 PM EDT

Artist: Mike Marino & his Restless Soul
Album: Last of the Heartland
CD Review: Voicing somewhere between Neil Young and leader of the Eagles, Mike Marino carries his acoustics like a set of heavy memories that have grown a little lighter through the years. Beginning with 'Hidden Places,' we're told, in a rather folk-country way, 'Far off in the distance, I know a place to go / You can't find me anywhere, searching high and low / Hiding from my demons, under the sun's glow / I find the hidden places, where I can always go.'

Mike takes all vocals and guitars, with a bit of harmonica sparsely thrown in, and some help on bass, keys, drums, and a smidgen of female voice in the back. Like eating audio homemade pie, this. Not as somber as Dylan, but not near as delighted as Christian, this 16 track tale of folk is able to find the lite rock mold that Clapton explored for a lifetime.

The outrospective 'Lonely Town' exposes the mysteries and miseries of a televised society that finds loneliness as much a norm as pavement nowadays. 'Everybody's movin' too fast anymore / We should get together more like before / Everybody's watchin' bad news on tv / Where's it gonna lead to for you and me.' Hard to say, but Marlene Howell's backing vocals lend a nicety to a subject we all know and care to ignore.

Very vocal album. Not enough room in the cd booklet to type everything in. A shame because one of the best vocal performances is 'It Just Ain't Fair,' and I'd like to type in some of those words. Rather reminiscent of Dylan and blues-chosen Springsteen, with some great black-washed guitar coming through the holes in the rap.

Mike's made his home in NJ, where seasons set like unpacified Indians. It is this reflection of winter to summer juttings that strikes the listener more than anything else. Birthed in the blues, there's more to the disc than memories and strings. As Mike himself states in 'In Between' - 'Between the lines I read the signs / Caught in the tide, I'll race the time / Between the lines I read the signs / Caught in the tide, I'll race the time... for you.'

Personally, I dig the music more than the voices. If this were an instrumental album, or one with a few spaces of instrumentals between the vocal tracks, I'd find it a more satisfying, peaceful album. But the playing sits on the top shelf, never dusty, crying out with a western edge that's easy to grow into. Never mocking, always genuine: an easy coolness in a dry and self-deceptive planet.

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