After bouncing around L.A., Mark Insley relocated to Tucson a few years ago. Shuttered away in a cool studio, he's created ever more sophisticated Americana. There's a country album at this disc's heart, complete with steel guitar and troubled lyrics, but Insley and co-producer Pal du Gr- deftly mix additional influences that take the songs in novel directions.
Cameos of processed vocals, backwards guitar, jaw harp, Wurlitzer piano and rhythmic BBQ accoutrements raise this country-folk-rock to a truly original plane. Insley and harmony vocalist Clare Muldaur bring to mind fellow travelers Buddy & Julie Miller and Christy McWilson, but also the unretouched close-ups of The Beatles' "White Album," the reverb-backed rock of Tom Petty and the spent sound of Kris Kristofferson. Insley is an understated singer, offering up his lyrics for the listener to mull over. His band plays with a similar smoulder of energy, most especially the layered guitars of Rick Shea and Greg Leisz. The five originals include the atmospheric nightmare "The Devil's Knocking" and the haywire honky-tonker "Meat, the Devil." Four well-selected covers include the raggedly evocative "Deep End of the Bar" ("There's a dusty velvet Elvis/and a sign that says 'Lone Star'/An' I'm just treadin' water/at the deep end of the bar") and a sorrowfully detached, nearly numb rendition of Johnny Paycheck's "Pardon Me (I've Got Someone to Kill)."
It's not easy to break a music career out of Arizona, but with support from Americana radio, touring visits to Southern California and opening slots with touring friends who visit Tucson, word of this fine release can't help but get around.