Los Angeles native Mark Gothard has been has been playing music for more than twenty-five years now. His career began when as a tennis player at Princeton University a fellow teammate showed him how to strum a few chords on a guitar. And though Gothard went on to graduate with a master’s degree in education, his fate was forever sealed with the strumming of those first chords. Since then Gothard has traveled the country, through New York City, Nashville, D.C. and Boston just to name a few places. He has played some of the countries most revered music venues including House of Blues and The Troubadour.
With some three hundred songs under his belt, Gothard has recently released his sixth record Fly the Coop,” thirteen tunes steeped in deep rich tones of folky fingerpicked country tunes, reminiscent of Ryan Adams, though with the gritty and dark lyrics which recall Johnny Cash’s cast of drifter characters. Summed up the album is a return to not only Gothard’s musical roots but to the roots of the early cowboy style sounding guitar songs famous for being sung around campfires.
Many of the songs on Fly the Coop recall lost loves and broken relationships such as the opening track “What You Come Here For?” which recalls an old lover showing up after a long absence. “I Don’t Think You Should Call Me” is another such song, but the tone is different here, as Gothard’s lyrics and vocals are less angry and more sad, as he recounts an ex-lover calling him up. This helps to illustrate Gothard’s songwriting range and shows how with just a little trick of changing up his vocals he can change the tone of song completely.
Not all the songs on Fly the Coop merely deal with breakups though. There are also songs about men who are down and out on their luck for any number of reasons. Take “Month of June” for instance where Gothard sings about a man who starts his weekend on Thursday by sniffing glue and eventually heads to the liquor store. Or the story of man consumed by drink on “Dive Bar Lawn.”
To be sure Fly the Coop can sometimes sound a little bit too much like Mark Gothard’s influences, (“King of Love” for instance almost sounds like it could be a Johnny Cash cover) and at times I wondered whether or not I would get to hear something a little more upbeat or at least hear a wider range of instrumentation. It would have helped to keep the album from becoming a tad redundant at times. Despite these minor issues Fly The Coop is an enjoyable listen that showcases a talented songwriter.
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