Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mark Eitzel - Don't Be A Stranger

One of the greatest record store epiphanies I've ever experienced occurred after I walked into the New Paltz branch of Rhino Records to hear the then newly released Mark Eitzel: Songs Of Love Live. Luckily for me, the store manager was a huge fan of Eitzel and his band American Music Club, setting in motion a now almost two decade love affair with the band's darkly beautiful stylings.

AMC ran its course by 1995 and Eitzel has been plying a solo path for the better part of the decades that followed. There have been a couple decent enough stabs at American Music Club reunions, but none has come close to capturing the glories of their mid 90s heyday. Eitzel was firing on all cylinders at that point, recording the brooding 60 Watt Silver Lining in 1996. Underpinned by airy production and muted trumpet, the record is definitely his best solo work, and the handful of eponymous releases Eitzel has recorded have been decent at best and paled in comparison.

Eitzel survived a heart attack earlier in the year and after some time in the cold, word came down the internets earlier this year that Eitzel was recovering nicely and had been afforded a block of free studio time. Further investigation revealed that our hero was recording with strings and a backing unit that included bassist Bruce Thomas and ex-AMC guitar foil Vudi. Suffice to say that interest was piqued over at JS-NYC central. Merge is throwing some promo muscle behind the record, most notably a series of tongue-in-cheek video shorts that preceded the release of Don't Be A Stranger, featuring a series of luminaries giving Eitzel promotional advice about promoting the record.

While I was quick to snap up Don't Be A Stranger, I wasn't especially crazy about it after the first couple of spins, but I'm pleased to report its a grower.  I'd say that I Love You But You're Dead is the best of the eleven tracks. The record doesn't hit me in the gut like his mid 90s output, but the more expansive production is definitely a plus, and Stranger is undoubtably the best Eitzel release in some time.

Keep track of our dear Mr. Eitzel here and get Don't Be A Stranger here from the good folk of Merge Records.

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