Paul Mark and the Van Dorens – Smartest Man in the Room (Radiator Records – June 2012)
Music not just for pleasure but because it is interesting! With that statement, Paul Mark lays down the gauntlet for his 9th album. From a CD cover that depicts a classroom filled with the faces of people involved in the decision to invade Iraq and key figures in the American financial meltdown of 2008 to a song that rages at a remote and disinterested God, Smartest Man in the Room, challenges you to think a bit as you listen to some damn good rockin’ blues.
“When God Finds the Time” highlights Paul’s gravelly voice and his biting religious commentary wrapped around a haunting beat. “Only Time will Tell” is a great shuffling blues tune with lyrics that are just so true. And I loved “One More Coat of Paint”. It is classic rockin’ blues that should be a great live tune for their shows. The title track “The Smartest Man in the Room” is a cool rockin’ tune with great lyrics. “I got more opinions than a clown has balloons” sums up Paul’s view of the folks that led us into Iraq in 2003 and the colossal banking failure in 2008. “Forty Feet of Rope” is another witty tune that combines great music with some catchy lyrics. The recurring line “but the world has been wrong before” just stuck in my head and I found myself going back to that track several times as I wrote this review.
Paul Mark laid down the gauntlet to make a pleasurable and interesting album and he surpasses all my expectations on this great CD. In the current music environment where millions are made by “techno dance” artists and “ready for prime time” reality show singers, Paul has remained true to himself and his music. I don’t agree with everything he says in his songs but it is refreshing to hear great rockin’ blues that is interesting and thought provoking. Perhaps he’ll start a trend….let’s hope so.