Mark Eitzel – Hey Mr Ferryman – Album Review by Killian Laher
Mark Eitzel returns four and a half years on from his last album with what I believe to be his twelfth solo album. Teaming up with Bernard Butler on production duties, the sound here is lusher than anything else Eitzel has put his name to, certainly his most high profile producer since 1997’s Peter Buck-produced West. This gives the album a smooth, almost ‘radio-friendly’ sheen which means a lot of the tracks blend into each other. Songs like The Last Ten Years are intelligent, tuneful, almost lounge-pop, with Eitzel’s bluesy croon mixing with soothing music.
Scratch behind the production and you’ll find some fine songs. Early on the album, An Answer is the kind of morose plea long time fans will enjoy, while The Road builds gradually from a sparse opening to a moody plod (in a good way). The stripped down Nothing and Everything is an album highlight, a harrowing lament based around a picked acoustic guitar. Here, Butler lightens the production, allowing Eitzel to really inhabit lines like “he needs you to live, so with him you go where all hearts are frightened, and all hopes are weak”. In My Role As Professional Singer and Ham might be a summary of where Mark Eitzel is in his career. It starts off quietly, building to a chorus of “when you look at me, I look away”, which is one of those wonderfully simple Eitzel lyrics that says an awful lot in a short phrase. Here a grim self-portrait is painted in devastatingly broad strokes.
The one misstep here is when he feels the need to go bossa nova on An Angel’s Wing Brushed The Penny Slots. To be fair, the bones of a good song are here, but it’s let down by arrangements that don’t really suit. Just Because is in a similar vein but slowed down considerably, and it works a lot better, with a jazz feel not far away from his 60 Watt Silver Lining album. This one is a real slow burner, with a heartstopping middle eight “I don’t want to keep you, I just want to give you what little joy I know”. Elsewhere we get Smiths-style melodrama on Mr Humphries and tortured angst on Let Me Go, before the album concludes with the downbeat, drifting Sleep From My Eyes.
It’s difficult to assess this album on its own merits, there aren’t too many songwriters like Mark Eitzel who set the bar so high in his American Music Club days. For many, this album would be a career highlight, for Eitzel, a well crafted collection of songs.
1. The Last Ten Years
2. An Answer
3. The Road
4. Nothing and Everything
5. An Angel’s Wing Brushed The Penny Slots
6. In My Role As Professional Singer and Ham
7. Mr Humphries
8. La Llorona
9. Just Because
10. Let Me Go
11. Sleep from My Eyes