Mark Searcy – Strawberry Jam 1975 | Album Review

Mark Searcy – Strawberry Jam 1975

Moose Milk Music

10 songs time-46:28

Arkansas native and San Antonio, Texas based singer-guitarist Mark Searcy Middleton offers up music on this, his ninth release, that is an amalgamation of various influences. Those influences include rock, funk, fusion, blues, R&B, jazz and who knows what else. While the singing is sufficient along with the writing, the crux of this biscuit is Mark’s way with his guitar skills as he takes us along for the ride incorporating rock, blues, fusion, slide, jazz and more into his playing. Along with his solos, the punchy one-man multi-tracked horn section of Al Gomez and the keyboard skills of Steve Chase and Buck Thomas, the instrumental portions of this CD are a thing to behold. Not to forget the interchangeable rhythm section featuring various players. My favorites are the three diverse instrumental tracks. Add to that Candice Sanders and her soulful gem of a voice, whether doing multi-tracked backing vocals or her lone duet with Mark.

Mark handles slide and rhythm guitar on my favorite vocal track “I Don’t Feel So Good”, a chugging piece of musical goodness featuring some “tinkly” piano courtesy of Steve Chase and the haunting voice of Candice Sanders following the lead vocal at every twist and turn. Candice pours on the soulfulness as she duets on the slow-burning “When Time Stands Still”. The lovely guitar soloing and late night jazzy piano makes this another standout track.

Mark’s interpretation of Debbie Davies instrumental “Holdin’ Court” sounds like a track from later day spiritual Carlos Santana. The soaring guitar lines reach for the heavens over the requisite percussion fest. This song is almost a religious experience. The second instrumental “Black Diamond” begins as a slow, moody ground swell of guitar and electric piano that builds into an intense guitar display. This one brings to light the hint of Jeff Beck early smoldering fusion music. The last instrumental “Cassiopeia” starts off with a brief guitar crescendo before leading into heavy crunch-time Jeff Beck territory before tagging the tune with a snippet of Martin Barre (of Jethro Tull) style clever guitar gymnastics. Dang this guy Mark knows he can play him some geetar, Boy Howdy!

After a short acoustic intro, “Strawberry Jam 1975” turns morphs into a Doobie Brothers-meets-The Allman Brothers twin lead guitar dual between Mark and himself. Neat trick. He builds and trades off solos like The Allman’s patented. The narrator recounts his first kiss and ensuing relationship with his girl. Funky horns, Candice’s multi-tracked backing vocals, punchy horn section along with the ever present guitar and slide guitar goodness cap off things with “Fast Road To Your Grave”.

The singing and songwriting are good, but it’s the musicianship that raises the playing field. This isn’t music that is easily categorized, but whatever you want to call it, it’s a guaranteed enjoyable good time.

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