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CD REVIEW: Vinyl Eddie - Stripped Down
By Ashley Petkovski - 09/28/2002 - 03:14 AM EDT

Artist: Vinyl Eddie
Album: Stripped Down
CD Review: There’s no doubt that the male singer-songwriter genre has been picking up sweet, acoustic speed recently. We are privileged to hear Jack Johnson on the radio, Ron Sexsmith on a record label, and now Vinyl Eddie or, as the common folk may wish to call him, Mark White. “Stripped Down,” a collection of acoustic songs written over the last ten years, is the first record from the Cincinnati performer. Easing seamlessly from track to track, “Stripped Down” showcases both White’s ability to sculpt a song and his striking ability to, after only a few notes, bring you into the moment. With every passing line, White makes you look back, look inside – you understand where his words come from. It’s the personal connection between performer and listener that so many try to attain. Mark White manages to make that connection with the opening note of “Stripped Down,” and holds on to it, gradually pulling you in, the way any and all good songwriters should.

White’s engaging voice and instinctive, seemingly effortless instrumentation combine beautifully. He has a fine ear for melody and is able keep his rousing, catchy songs as genuine and captivating as his sweetly languid ones. It’s easy for me to go on for paragraphs and paragraphs about his guitar work, his voice, the production and the album art, dissecting everything, song by song. It’s all wonderful, but in the end, those things become the minute details of the “big picture” when it comes to experiencing “Stripped Down.” Be it White’s intention or not, when “Stripped Down” fades, you walk away with one thing: a genuine relationship with each song. Cut it up or tear it down, every song on “Stripped Down” has both a sense of tender vulnerability and of strength drawn from pain and passion. The scenarios in the songs may not mirror your own, but you, as the listener, can likely understand where White is coming from. He’s the starry-eyed idealist, naively looking to everyone and everything he can to nurture his dreams, but also the hardened pessimist who knows deep down that the world around him is destined to change. Every emotion put down on “Stripped Down” is true, and, when analyzed to hell and back, beautifully universal.

Devoid of pretension and posturing, “Stripped Down” rings out with honesty and passion. A labour of love, Mark White’s heart and soul are obviously in this album. Every lyric and every note naturally and gracefully resonate comfortingly - from even the worst set of speakers - with poignancy and honesty. I can’t help but draw the Jeff Buckley comparison at this point. White may not have the same kind of romantic, fitful guitar, or the frighteningly high vocal range, but his emotions are just as strong. He, like Buckley, doesn’t need flamboyant language to make his point. Sincere and straightforward, his words harness the power and emotion that are equal parts regular guy and cult figure tortured lyricist. To put it simply, you get it when you hear it, and from there, you take it to heart.

He’s a treasure, this Vinyl Eddie fella’. “Stripped Down,” with all of it’s skill and substance, is an album that you can’t help but grow attached to, fall in love with and simply understand. Example? After reading the lyrics to “Eighty-Five,” I cried. From a girl that never cries, I can safely tell you that it doesn’t get much better than “Stripped Down” and the works of the delightful Vinyl Eddie.


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