Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands
All those Seattle coffee-fueled grungers have grown up and left their torn-jeans roots behind. Now they drive Subarus, and unwittingly try to sound like their grandparents, and hang out at the same coffee houses, and sing what was once quaintly called “Folk.”
Mark Pickerel has cred; he drove the guitar on more than a few Screaming Trees albums. Now he’s on his own and the sound is smooth and pure and plaintive. Sounding like a sobered-up Tom Waits, he’s urbane-sounding and slick as vinyl car seats. I’m taken by “I Study Horses,” which seems like a good topic that has infinite depth and maybe some real-world applicability. The song reeks of alienation and loss; it’s the center of what they used to call “Country” and now hibernates as “Americana.” Yup, the world lied to him and real estate isn’t worth the paper that finances it, but a good man with a guitar can always find a gig. And where do you find horses? Out in “Your Wild West” is a good start. This track has a touch of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry but sticks to Pickerel’s strong points: loss and alienation. He sings “My heart’s too heavy… ” and any words following that lead line are fine by me.
Sure, he fights back with “The Throes of Love,” but there it is, just like the flu — stay in bed and eat lightly, and in a week or so you’ll be back on your feet and looking for your next infection. While Pickerel has a country feel, there’s no shit-kicking, yee-hawing, Lone Star Beer bar-crawling here; he’s eating right and everything he sings is fodder for heated discussion of what’s right and wrong with modern society. You have an opinion. Pickerel might not agree, but he supports your right to wallow in self-misery. Suck it up.