3.27.2008

Mark Fry, Shooting the Moon (Bourdidlebaby, 2008)


In 1972, a English teenager studying art in Italy named Mark Fry brought his guitar into a recording studio and cut an album. Heavy on the reverb and chock full of cryptic imagery, Dreaming With Alice never got released outside of Italy and seemed destined for utter obscurity. And yet, for fans of psychedelic folk music, finding a copy of this album is like discovering the Lost Ark. The fact that information on the album, plus a couple of recordings off of it, can be easily obtained with a simple Google search indicates that at least a few people think Dreaming With Alice is worth remembering. As for Fry, he's been hanging out mainly in France, doing more painting than anything else. But I guess he decided that thirty-six years was enough time to keep his fans waiting for a follow-up. Fry's sophomore effort, called Shooting the Moon, came out earlier this year.

Shooting the Moon places Fry squarely in the singer-songwriter genre. The music focuses on Fry and his guitar, with mostly light accompaniment. It does not have the hypnotic dreaminess of its predecessor. After hearing a couple of tracks off Dreaming with Alice (hear them for yourself here), I decided that there was something unique and strangely compelling about the sound of that album which the more mundane new recording could have used. I was struck, however, by a comment I read in a review of the first album about Fry possessing an "honest likeability" that makes the songs work. If anything remains unchanged for Fry all these years later, it's that there's something endearing about the guy. The lyrics sound like the work of a man who's been a bit down on his luck romantically, but Fry comes across as refreshingly real and believable, and you find yourself rooting for him. Fry's songs are unassuming and unpretentious, and it almost feels when you listen to Shooting the Moon like he's sitting next to you at a bar discussing life over a few drinks.

I like Shooting the Moon for the most part. Like I've said about several albums I've reviewed though, I'm worried that whatever chances the album may have for a commercial breakthrough are likely to be undone, ironically and unfortunately, by the album's consistency. Every song is pretty good, but there's no great standout track that can force its way onto the radio or people's hard drives. Still, if you like honest, down-to-earth songwriting, Shooting the Moon has plenty to recommend it.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott


1 comment:

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