Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Mark Kraus grew up in Massachusetts. But not the Massachusetts one affiliates with the jet set politicians or the country club set. Kraus grew up in the other Massachusetts, the one of abandoned factories and working class turned drinking class families. These towns are what drove writers like Jack Kerouac and Andre Dubus III to set out and explore different parts of the country, and more importantly what gave them their early themes and ideas that they would later flesh out in their poems, stories and novels.
Along with some friends Mark Kraus escaped from one of these towns and made it to Boston where he formed the indie folk band Jr. Corduroy. Jr. Corduroy enjoyed some success in 2002 with their record I Don’t Want to Be Around When You’re Gone For Good, which earned praise from The Boston Globe who picked the record as one of their ten best for that year. I Don’t Want to Be Around When You’re Gone For Good also charted on the CMJ Top 50. Despite the acclaim garnered the band broke up shortly afterwards and Kraus moved to New York City. Over the next decade he experimented with music and played around with various bands until he finally gave up on music for nearly five years.
Now Kraus has resurfaced with a debut solo record full of slow and heartfelt acoustic meanderings called The Story of Everything. Overall Kraus seems to take to the role of the troubled troubadour rather well. Over The Story of Everything’s ten songs one hears the echoes of such doleful compatriots as Bruce Springsteen, Elliot Smith and Ryan Adams. One also hears their musical influences, with strings added for effect and the pitter-patter of brushes against the toms, like mood lighting.
These cited influences are in no way comparisons. Kraus faces the pitfalls of so many first time acoustic guitar wielding solo artists. Though Kraus’ mistakes here are ones which every solo artist, beginning, intermediate and sometimes even well established make, which is melancholia that lacks wit. And it is this wit to which listeners cling, not the empathy. This is not to say that The Story of Everything doesn’t contain instances of great beauty. Kraus’ vocals are tender and they know the terrain, which they traverse. Kraus’ arrangements are warm and well thought out, and his songs never suffer the monotony, which seems to hinder so many solo artists.
The Story of Everything shows Mark Kraus as an artist on his own regaining his footing after being out of the game for a while. On these songs one hears talent hatching, a talent, which as it continues to grow will only become sharper and more refined, provided that Kraus has the patience required to turn talent into the genius he is so clearly working towards.
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