Mark Erelli: Delivered

It’s no secret that it’s been a rough last few weeks in the blog world. Several blog authors have had files removed, others have lost entire posts, and at least a few bloggers are looking for new hosting options after being given the boot from their original hosts.

Most of the blame for this is being directed at the record labels who now seem to be blaming bloggers for their decreased sales figures and failing business model. These giant labels are flexing their muscles and taking out their frustrations on the bloggers who are only trying to create exposure (and thus sales) for the music and artists they love. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that there have been plenty of harsh words written toward the record companies on blogs and in message boards over the last month.

This post is not here to add to those harsh words. Rather, it is here to highlight an artist and the album he was able to create, largely without the support and subsequent hassles of dealing with a label. It is also here to show those record labels that music fans are still willing to support music and artists they believe in.

When songwriter Mark Erelli stood poised to record his new album Delivered, he wanted to do it on his own, and own what he did. Of course, making a record without label money or support is expensive, so mark used his website to put out a call to his his fans. Their response was overwhelming.

Over 120 of Erelli’s fans ponied up over $10,000 in donations to help him cover recording costs. That’s a fairly strong testament to the connection Erelli’s fans have to his music. In return for their financial contributions, each fan who helped out received an autographed copy of Delivered along with an exclusive bonus disc of unreleased material appropriately titled Barn Raising after the communal nature of the project. As you might recall… Scott Miller employed a similar fundraising technique to help cover the costs of his upcoming album.

I actually met mark Erelli a few years back at the Americana Music Conference in Nashville. He had just finished playing a set at 12th and Porter alongside his good friend and fellow artist Lori McKenna. We chatted for a brief bit while I waited for the shuttle to take me to the next show. Nice Guy. After talking to him and seeing his show that night, it’s easy to see why his fans would support him the way they did for this new record.

Now, with that out of the way… let’s talk about the album itself, as it was certainly worth the investment the fans put into it. At times the album is both sparse and lush, intimate and expansive. Delivered delivers a songwriter at the top of his game who isn’t afraid to tackle a wide variety of topics and styles.

The album does seem to have a central theme, however. Several tracks deal in some capacity with war, including the album’s centerpiece, “Volunteers.” The song is recorded with just Erelli’s fragile voice and a gently plucked guitar, a nice production choice that serves to highlight the power of Erelli’s words. The lyrics tell the tale of a man who volunteered for an enlistment with the National Guard, and soon found that his life as a “casual soldier” was over once things began to escalate in the Middle East.

Unlike most songs that have been written about the Iraq War, this one doesn’t seek to take sides. It doesn’t attack those who led the country to fight, nor does it seek to rally support for the cause through transparent patriotic images. It simply tells the story of a soldier who is at once hero and villain in a land where “it’s a victory just to make it through another day.” Similar themes are also addressed in the sombre “Hope Dies Last” and the anthemic “Shadowland.”

Of course, there are some lighter moments on the album too. “Man of the Family” is a touching look at maturity and responsibility through the eyes of a first time father. On “Once” the narrator has found the love he has searched his whole life for, and wishes the same for his audience.

“Baltimore” is another “driving all night to see my baby” song in the tradition of Lucinda Williams’ “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad,” or any number of others. I’m always a sucker for this type of song because they remind me of the many nights I spent on the interstate at 3A.M. on the way to Knoxville during the time when my wife and I lived in different states. This song is slightly different, though, in that the bounciness of the tune masks the singer’s sadness. You see… he’s going to see her, but she isn’t waiting for him. His all night trip is a last ditch effort to win back the girl he let slip away.

Mark Erelli: Volunteers (Buy Album)
Mark Erelli: Baltimore (Buy Album)

2 Responses to “Mark Erelli: Delivered”

  1. Nice analysis, Nelson. This album has been on rotation for a few months or more in the Howdy household; it wears well, I think. For the record, other artists who have done the micro-finance thing in recent memory also include Kris Delmhorst, Jill Sobule, and Richard Shindell; I wrote a bit < HREF="" REL="nofollow">over at Cover Lay Down<> about the economic model a while back when Shindell was raising cash for his own upcoming disk. As for the blogbusting: I’m proud to report that this blogger has made the move. But for the record, I don’t blame the labels, and my beef with blogger is minor (it’s just bad business to delete posts without even passing along notice to the blogger). Instead, I believe the even larger institutions (UK and US so-called IP associations, which claim to speak for the whole industry all at once), with their catch-all nets too large and impersonal to really notice whether they are actually catching the right tuna, are to blame for endangering these dolphins. If they only would own up to the fact that we all know tuna has too much mercury to trust anyway, perhaps they’d stop killing the fishing grounds in their attempt to save the market.

  2. hi nelson!cool blog!!!i happened to pass by this blog when searching the hype machine for some songs on las vegas, and i found your gram parsons/ryan adams reincarnation post very nice…keep on!

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