Charlie Mars - 1/2

Wednesday, January 02 2013 6:00pm Doors / 8:00pm Start
Wed Jan 02 2013

Charlie Mars - 1/2

at City Winery New York City





Esquire feature asking five songwriters to compose a tune incorporating the words ‘‘Somewhere in Mississippi...’’ -- was literally cut live as the band unwound from a long day’s work, while the rollicking, funk-fueled ‘‘How I Roll’’ was truly born of spontaneous energy, its unabashedly wicked opening lines put down by Mars while Johnson was out on a brief appointment. Upon his return to the studio two hours later, the band jammed the track and recorded it straightaway.

‘‘That was it,’’ Mars says. ‘‘We never did it again.’’

Penned as a ‘‘counterbalance to some of the slower, more moodier songs’’ on the album, ‘‘How I Roll’’ sees Mars acknowledging his myriad demons, even celebrating their essential place in his complete being.

‘‘Part of what I’ve gone through is acknowledging that I have a darker self,’’ he says, ‘‘and I have to work diligently to try and improve myself so that I can stay out of that. At some point, I came to the realization that that darker self is going to win sometimes and I’m a little tired of apologizing for it. It’s part of the whole, I don’t have to carve that part of myself out and deny it.’’

Like any songwriter worth his salt, Mars employs his art as a channel towards personal discovery, candidly exploring all the human limitations -- from pride and fear to cynicism self-doubt -- that stand in the way of his attaining true happiness.

‘‘The desire for connection and my terror in the face of it,’’ he says. ‘‘That’s what the album is about.’’

To get there, songs like ‘‘Great Wall of China’’ or the title track take lyrical cues from such literary heroes as Haruki Murakami, Cormac McCarthy, Walker Percy, and Denis Johnson, relying on spare language and abstract imagery to create vivid-to the bone revelations about universal life experience.

Upon the sessions’ conclusion, Mars began aggressively pursuing one of his dream collaborators, legendary producer/engineer/mixer T chad Blake. The Grammy A ward-winner -- known for his distinctive work with such artists as Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson, and Sheryl Crow -- ultimately agreed and helped give Blackberry Light much of its uniquely spacious warmth.

‘‘If there is a leap from the last record to this one, Tchad played a huge part in it, Mars says. He’s an artist. He takes something and infuses it with his artistry and it becomes something else. He’s the real deal.’’

The same can be said of Charlie Mars. Imbued with jazzy warmth, simmering dynamics, and uncommon use of space and intensity, Blackberry Light presents a gifted writer and musician at his confident and creative peak, a milestone work in what has proven to be a most extraordinary artistic evolution.