Mark Merryman and The Canyon Rats
"Scenic Byways"
by Johanna J. Bodde


"Scenic Byways"

Mark Merryman could be described -after just one superficial spin in the CD-player- as the typical folksinger, who brings us his self-penned lyrics with nice sounding but not really remarkable voice on most easy rippling melodies. But... this philosophically inclined artist from Colorado and his musically adept Canyon Rats definitely have a whole lot more to offer! Lots of variation, to start with, not one moment of boredom - fourteen tracks long. The acoustic instruments get plenty of room on this album, there are electric guitars and drums featured, but they don't dominate at all and the listener finds different nuances continuously. Something in the clear sound reminds us immediately of the mountains and canyons from the CD-booklet.

Mark has been introduced as a "lighthearted deep thinker", who by his own experiences got an eye for the irony of life. Listen for example to "I Had To Get Lost (To Find Myself)", "Walls Of Stone" and "Recalling The Memories", in which he describes his change of lifestyle: "I've traveled life's highways, now I stay on the byways." "Lonesome Pickers" showcases various strong solos, while "Cisco Boat Launch" was fitted with a fine arrangement of fiddle and button accordion. "Walking Blues" bears a strong resemblance with the works of Hank Williams and other heroes from the old-time music. Mark's playful use of words is most obvious in comical "Under My Hat", while "Playing This Guitar" isn't only beautiful but also easy to relate to! Then the last tracks "Winter's Finally Here" (with flute) and traditional instrumental "Abruxa" (with mandolin) are going back to the atmosphere of those high mountains. The CD ends very surprisingly on a hidden track, where the car radio is dialed along a few music stations! And don't I hear a Sand Sheff song there?

Written by Johanna J. Bodde, Spring 2005 (never published before).