Carolyn Mark and The New Best Friends
The Pros and Cons of Collaboration
Carolyn Mark’s The Pros and Cons of Collaboration is like alt. country vaudeville; like an indie-centric “Hee Haw” for the 21st century. It’s full of tongue-in-cheek witticisms, recurrent musical themes, lyrical vignettes/skits. Hell, it’s even got an overture! Mark plays the wine-soaked, chain-smoking ringleader throughout, drawling and belting out numbers like Natalie Merchant’s twangy cousin. “2 Day Smug and Sober” roars out of the juke joint with an unstoppable ragtime piano melody and an instantly catchy chorus. “Not a Doll” is the requisite, but perfectly written melancholy anthem that wafts by much too quickly. “Chantal and Leroy” is the ultimate “third wheel” song. Mark has her smirking, witty routine down pat as she displays an encyclopedic knowledge of wine and a distaste for men who favor white, on the aptly named “The Wine Song.” “Yanksgiving” puts the fat, Ford shill Toby Keith in his place, and “Vincent Gallo,” though a little light on substance, is a fun dream psychoanalysis.
On the album’s bookend tracks (“Overture” and “Outro/Credits”), Mark steps away from the microphone and lets her “new best friends” bask in the atmosphere they’re creating. On her last album, Mark declared herself a “terrible hostess,” but on the inviting and completely pleasing Pros and Cons… she does better than just get by with a little help for her friends: she excels.