Mark Eitzel – The Ugly American

Mark Eitzel
The Ugly American

During the making of this disc, former American Music Club frontman Mark Eitzel went across the seas to Greece to record some old songs from his AMC days and a few solo selections as well. The music is totally reworked here, relying mostly on instruments like the violin, mandolin, bouzouki, and many others to paint a whole different light on these works. Eitzel, as always, is in great voice here, and he proves he can transcend any mood. The Greek musicians he chose to work with clearly know how to handle such heartbreaking songs and melodies, and they do it with aplomb. This disc works well as both a starting point for those just gaining interest in Eitzel or for those who want to relive the work of a wonderful musician’s past.
The disc starts off in a rather somber mood with moaning violins and strum and plucking mandolins in the American Music Club song “Western Sky.” Eitzel’s mourning vocals float powerfully above the heartbroken setting, which perfectly fits the lyrics. The next track is an equally stunning song, but in a much different way. Eitzel and compatriots tackle another old AMC chestnut in “Here They Roll Down,” employing buzzing and humming whistles and pipes. The music here is strikingly beautiful and unique. It’s a magical experience that shows much instrumental talent, especially the powerful drumming exhibited here.
“Take Courage” is a reworked version of a one-off solo single Eitzel composed for Matador while still performing with AMC. The song has much beauty in its tune with well-played guitar and mandolin parts as well as one instrument I just can’t figure out (but which is used to amazing effect). The song breaks from the melancholic atmospheres of the prior songs and it puts me in the mood to take a romp in the next bed of flowers I happen to come across. “Lost Harbor” is full of sorrow and questioning both musically and lyrically, and as such it is quite an undertaking. The expressiveness here is breathtaking.
Eitzel and his Greek counterparts go through his hefty songbook and come up with new versions that live up to the majestic beauty of the originals. This recording is full of beauty, but most of that beauty comes from the sorrow and melancholy put across by the musicians and Eitzel’s vocals. This disc carries the same emotional impact that Eitzel’s work, either solo or with AMC, did before it but in a totally unique fashion. On occasion a song will tend to drag and falter a little (as in “Nightwatchman”), so it is by no means a perfect recording, but the beauty of the music surely makes up for these instances. This music gets many emotions and mental pictures across to the listener, and in my book what else is there to ask for?