Mark Telesca – Higher Vibrations | Album Review

Mark Telesca – Higher Vibrations

Self-produced CD

16 songs – 51 minutes

One of the brightest lights on the South Florida music scene, Mark Telesca celebrates his victory over cancer with this stellar collection of acoustic blues – nine originals that mix flawlessly with six blues and gospel covers culled from the pre-War era and one reinvention of a soul hit.

A singer, songwriter, guitarist, bassist and bandleader as well as an author, Telesca regularly hosts the best Monday night blues jam south of Atlanta at the Funky Biscuit nightclub in Boca Raton when not gigging regionally the rest of the week.

A survivor of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, he spent most of his downtime composing the music you’ll hear here as well as finishing his second book, Love Music Hate Cancer. Away from the stage, he’s popular on the lecture circuit, recounting the lifestyle changes brought about by his illness as well as the healing power of music.

Telesca’s been an area favorite through his early work with Blues Dragon and he’s known nationally through his work with Mick Kolassa, the Michissippi Bluesman, with whom he released the well-received You Can’t Do That CD, which reinvented Beatles tunes as acoustic blues numbers and which was released at the height of his cancer battle.

This is Mark’s second release and first solo acoustic effort, following Heavy Breathing, which appeared in 2016. A powerful, pleasant vocalist, he’s also an exceptional traditional fingerpicking guitarist and storyteller with a spot-on sense of time and rhythm. The only assistance he gets on this one is from producer Bob Taylor, who provided snare drum.

“99 Years” opens the action. It’s a new tune with timeless feel sung from the first person view of someone trapped behind bars for something he didn’t do. Telesca dazzles, mixing single-note runs and slide. The pace quickens for “Black Dress,” a plea for his lady to get dressed because they’re going to be late for a show, before slowing dramatically again for a take on Doctor Clayton’s “Murderin’ Blues.”

The mood brightens with “Lookin’ for Some Gold,” an optimistic wish for a better future, before the haunting, minor-key “Turn on a Dime” is an introspective number about how life can change in a heartbeat.

Covers of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Louise” and Robert Johnson’s “Come On in My Kitchen” and Leroy Carr’s “How Long Blues” and “Papa’s On the House Top” serve as two-tune bookends for the funky original “It’s All Right” picks up the pace and brightens the mood while putting a positive spin on death and more minor problems. The Telesca original “Life in the City” provides a sprightly, microscope view of Manhattan before things quiet again for “The Electric Chair,” which revisits the prison theme as the convict plans an appearance before a judge to request a speedy end.

Blind Willie Johnson’s familiar “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’” feels fresh before flowing into the original song of lost love, “Been a Long Time.” The disc ends with an interesting take on Al Green’s song of desire, “I’m a Ram,” and the percussive original, “Somethin’ Just Ain’t Right,” in which the musician returns home late, finds his bed empty and clothes on the floor.

Available from Amazon other online retailers, if you’re a fan of acoustic blues, you’ll love this one. I did!

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