2016 CD REVIEW
MARK LUCAS & THE DEAD SETTERS
THE CONTINENTAL DRIFT (LAUGHING OUTLAW)
MARK LUCAS DEAD SETTERS DRIFT TO DAILY NEWS DIET
“Yeah we know what evil lurks in the hearts of men/ we can watch it unfold nightly on 7, 9 & 10/ from the bent cops, shock jocks, priests and corporate whores/ where you can't tell left from right and the middle ain't there at all/ let the bones roll let the cards fall.” - Libere su Corazon - Mark Lucas.
Forget gum trees, koalas, boxing-kangaroos, emus, snapping crocodiles, dingoes, poisonous red-backs and faithful canines - once a staple diet of Aussie country songs.
Expatriate South London singer-songwriter Mark Lucas was confronted by a different visual and aural milieu on the mean streets of Sydney after he arrived in Australia 25 years ago with just a Martin guitar and suitcase of clothes and songs.
Although Lucas was a free settler he often feels imprisoned like a convict in his car and lounge with the daily dose of drive-by-shooters, terrorists, paedophile priests and political and police corruption on commercial radio and TV news broadcasts.
But there is light at the end of the tollway tunnels - the sin city shock jocks and syndicated news casters enable Lucas to turn bullets and bombs into vibrant verses.
And the onslaught has been so powerful he captured it with a flourish on his seventh album Continental Drift in his song Libere su Corazon.
For non-Spanish speakers that roughly translates as Release Your Heart .
Many of the songs by Lucas, who honed his craft as a teenage busker in London's underground subway after leaving school in 1974, are heart-driven but not this one.
“There's generally a sense of frustration at this young nation's current malaise, particularly the moral bankruptcy where refugees are concerned and, moreover, the fact that we, the people, are increasingly at the mercy of governments (both state and Federal) firmly in the pockets of corporations,” Lucas told Nu Country TV as he expanded on his song source.
“You're opening a can of worms here - it's something that I feel very strongly about. I believe that we have lost our way, as supposedly socially democratic nation. I've been a low-key activist for many years on a number of issues- environmental and political. I might add that I am not aligned to any political party. They all disappoint. I don't think that the national broadcaster stoops to quite the depths that the commercial channels do in chasing and creating a story, whilst channelling “infotainment' in the guise of news.”
SATURDAY NIGHT NOT SO SPECIAL IN NEW MEXICO
“The hour before dawn is dark, the ambulance is white/ the rain dirty back streets spill the blood-red light/ the morbid crowd have come and gone, all's quiet beyond the crime-scene tape/ it ain't beauty killed the beast my friend/ but it's love that sealed his fate” - Saturday Night Special - Mark Lucas.
But it was not local pay day loan sharks that inspired his epic tune Saturday Night Special where the victim falls foul of love and crime.
“I was in a pawn shop in Albuquerque New Mexico some years back as I deal a little in Native American art,” Lucas revealed.
“Anyway, I quietly explained that if I were to land in a situation that required that level of executive action I'd likely get shot/ knifed /shoot my toe off before I actually managed to deploy the weapon - thanks but no thanks says I. The song grew from that and my occasionally fertile but film noir imagination.”
Lucas opted not to avail himself with the artillery arsenal frequently used by bikeless bikies and drive by shooters reaching plague proportions in the big smoke.
Instead he uses powerful imagery as his weapon of choice.
WAITING ON A TRAIN
“It's a quarter to eleven and I'm waitin on a train/ I'm thinking about my baby/ I didn't mean to cause her pain/ the moon is slowly rising/ I can see it through the haze/ and everything is different/ it'll never be the same/ well you did it this time boy/
got Cupid on the run/ hung yourself right out to dry/ on a slip of the tongue.” - Slip Of The Tongue - Mark Lucas.
It was a far cry from Lucas's boarding school adolescence he shared with peers diverse as James Blundell and Dead Livers duo Marty Atchison and Michael Schack.
His school was continents away.
“It was in Bournemouth (central south coast) - St. Peter's, a De la Salle Christian Brothers grammar school,” says Lucas of a Catholic education akin to the Dead Livers duo who haunted Monivae College in Hamilton in our western district.
“I left at 18 and headed to first Canterbury and then South London via six months hitching through France, Spain & Morocco. I used to travel up to London to visit with friends and that's when I started to busk at Monument and Bank underground stations. On my return from gap year travels, when I was at Kingston Polytechnic reading law, I started doing it more regularly as I needed the money. I lasted only two years of law school.”
He performs a live version of his train song of sorts - Slip Of The Tongue - in Series #31 of Nu Country TV in September.
Continental Drift is not a new direction for Lucas.
He adorned previous albums with songs fuelled by imagery diverse as escapees from the law and domestic violence, corporate cotton water thieves, greedy commodities traders, prisoners behind razor wire, religious zealots and farms littered with wind turbines.
But underneath it all were homages to Willie, Waylon, Merle and Lefty Frizzell and good-hearted women.
This time there's a waiting for a train song, references to the late Johnny and June Carter Cash, Bob Dylan's famed Highway 61 , mad dogs and English men and whiskey dents in an old Ford truck.
SOMETHING WICKED - NOT CRICKET
“Things have changed since I was young/ now we don't walk out in the noonday sun/ mad dogs and Englishmen are told/ lucky old sun ain't lucky no more/ kissed by the sun touched by the moon/ I think we need a little more Johnny & June/ guess we hit the nail right on the thumb/ something wicked this way comes/ lately things I've got so bad/ think I'll buy myself an ice-cream van/ drive it all around the world.” - Something Wicked - Mark Lucas
Lucas recorded his new album at Linear Studio in Leichardt with multi-instrumentalist Jake Lardot - long-time member of prolific ARIA and Golden Guitarist Lee Kernaghan's band - as producer.
Lardot also plays with Lucas's Dead Setters band that features fiddler-mandolinist John Lee, drummer Steve Gunning and bassist Chris Mearns.
Lucas has been a key part of the Sydney country genre in other bands including the Parwills and was entertainment booker from 2008 for the Petersham Bowling Club music venue where many artists got their break.
It was where he was opening act for fellow Englishman Albert Lee - guitarist in Emmylou Harris's famed Hot Band - who toured here in the eighties in a duo with Oklahoma born star Vince Gill.
And, of course, the legendary Danny O'Keefe - writer of Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues and many memorable songs covered by artists diverse as Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, Willie Nelson, Mel Tormé, Dwight Yoakam, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cab Calloway, Leon Russell and Waylon Jennings.
Jackson Browne did O'Keefe's The Road on his Runnin' on Empty album, Judy Collins covered Angel Spread Your Wings and Donny Hathaway and Leo Sayer both did versions of Magdalena .
Mark Lucas is performing with the Dead Setters to promote The Continental Drift .