Mark Crissinger – Believe in Love | Album Review

Mark Crissinger – Believe in Love


CD: 10 Songs, 44 Minutes

Styles: Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues, All Original Songs

When I was younger, my family and I would go on summer vacation. One of my (strange) hobbies was to look through the AAA Lodging Guide to find out which hotels and motels were the best in the cities we were heading for. In order to get even a modest rating, lodging had to be “clean and unpretentious.” Those three words characterize Mark Crissinger’s blues, though some of his lyrics may not be sanitized for your protection. On Believe in Love, the latest studio offering from this British Columbia bluesman, Mark presents ten original songs that are succinct, relatable, and short on the fancy stuff. You won’t hear any Hendrix homages or outrageous overdubbing. The CD is meant to be “blues therapy” for what ails you, and such medicine needs to be simple. On vocals Mark is a bit flat, but his honest stylings beat autotune by about a million miles. Instrumentally, he fares quite well, his guitar riffs providing down-home entertainment.

“There was a real attempt to get a live vibe going on, even though we couldn’t all be in the studio at the same time,” Crissinger comments. “I always try to mix up the grooves at my concerts and pay respect to tradition while adding my ‘new blues’ sound to every set list. It all feels familiar somehow.” The Maple Blues Award critics agree, having nominated him in 2017. After moving to BC in 2007, he began to focus on a solo career, showcasing his love for songwriting, blues and roots music. Since then, he’s released six studio albums and three live collections. He’s played countless concerts, pubs and clubs and in recent years, many great blues festivals in Victoria, Orangeville, Pender Harbour, Chemainus, Nanaimo and other locations.

Joining Crissinger (guitars and vocals) are Bill Hicks on drums, Jay Stevens on bass, Marty Howe on harmonica, Darcy Phillips on keyboards, and Pierre Komen on saxophone.

“Believe in Love” possesses powerhouse saxophone and a swinging beat perfect for dancing, its lyrics hearkening back to basics: “People, gotta believe in love. People, gotta believe in kindness.” Next comes “I Hear You’re Talking,” packing a much harder punch along with ‘50s-style boogie keyboards by Darcy Phillips. “Well, you know how it is in a small town: people gotta chit and chat. What they ain’t realizing is when their sh– has sh–. I hear you talking…but you ain’t said much to me.” What a perfect summation of what rumors are made of! Other highlights are “Roll With the Punches,” “La Hoochie Coo” (featuring feisty French), and “Hard No,” reminding us that we all have limits, and we’ve got to take a stand when they get pushed. “Hornby” finishes the set, a perky traveling tune that’ll get anyone off their duffs and moving.

Mark Crissinger doesn’t aim to present himself as a big shot. Rather, he encourages us all to Believe in Love, because that’s the best therapy there is when you’ve got the blues!

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