The Upshot: A slew of low-key gems and terrifically upbeat anthems from the erstwhile Hootie guitarist and songwriter.
BY FRED MILLS
Charleston’s Mark Bryan is not exactly an unknown quantity; for those of you who need a gentle prod, think “multi-platinum artist Hootie and The Blowfish.” Since that group’s ubiquitous alt-rock radio heyday, and subsequent, intermittent moments in the sun, Bryan hasn’t been exactly laurels-resting. Granted, his public profile isn’t quite as high as Hootie vocalist Darius Rucker’s ascent within the country music milieu, but maybe that’s because the so-called “public” pays more attention to chart placement and radio spins than behind-the-scenes activity—and, in Bryan’s case, good works.
Go to Bryan’s Wikipedia and you’ll get a sense of some of those musical good works, which include Carolina Studios, a nonprofit arts/music organization for kids, and the Chucktown Music Group, which works to connect local musicians with vital resources related to artistic guidance, promotion and marketing. Bryan has even teamed with Charleston venue the Charleston Music Hall to produce a regional music television show.
Meanwhile, as any good musician worth his salt would do, the songwriter has continued to, ahem, write songs, and Songs of the Fortnight represents his and is trio The Occasional Milkshakes (Bryan, bassist Hank Futch, drummer Gary Greene) performing material originally posted on Bryan’s “Songs of the Fortnight” blog, a three-year project for which, every couple of weeks, he posted new songs or those recorded by artists he had been working with.
The LP—a 180-gram vinyl release, complete with download card and all housed in an utterly gorgeous slick-laminate-stock outer sleeve plus full-lyric/credits inner sleeve (credit where credit is due, right fellow wax devotees?)—boasts a slew of low-key gems, among them the twangy, goodtime, neo-folkabilly “If You Saw Her” (“They say beauty’s from within/ And I guess it must’ve been/ Before it busted out of her and became free,” sings Bryan, in an utterly joyous moment), and the falsetto-flecked, fiddle-powered “The Great Beyond,” which neatly straddles the alt-country and bluegrass camps. There are some terrific upbeat moments as well, notably the riffy, Marshall Crenshaw-esque power pop anthem “Forgetting About Me,” and the delightfully hectic melody-and-rhythm rush that is “Mybabyshe’sallright” (it features BLURT hero and Hootie alumnus Peter Holsapple on correspondingly hectic harmonica).
Bottom line being that Songs of the Fortnight is designed to give listeners an 11-song musical vacation from what ails ‘em, ‘cos Bryan intuitively grasps how music, whether chronicling moments we want to revisit or need to recover from, is ultimately a healing and uplifting force. Believe it.
DOWNLOAD: “Forgetting About Me,” “If You Saw Her,” “The Great Beyond”