February 2001

Mark Selby - More Storms Comin'
Vanguard CD 79570-2
Released: 2000

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]More Storms Comin' is a hard album to pigeonhole. Mark Selby draws upon a diverse group of musical influences in his writing and performing, fusing elements of the blues, country, and rock into his music. To me, this is pure roots music, simultaneously looking toward both the future and the past of the blues and rock'n'roll. It's what rock should always have been, before it took a wrong turn and became corporate in the late '70s. And I like it!

Mark Selby, a new name to me, has been a part of the music scene for some time now. He has a string of independent albums to his credit, as well as having written songs in Nashville for acts as diverse as Kenny Wayne Shepard ("Slow Ride," "Blue On Black" and "Deja Voodoo") and the Dixie Chicks (the #1 hit "There's Your Trouble"), not to mention both Wynona and Trisha Yearwood. On More Storms Comin' Selby composed each of the songs either by himself or with some help from associates, but the music is all his, and it shows (sounds?).

Right from the get-go, Selby grabs hold of you and gives you a good shake, as if to say "Boy, where you been" This is how it should be done." He hits the ground running with a killer version of "Don't You Throw That Mojo On Me." And while he'll never be compared to Jimi Hendrix as a guitarist, he has that certain something that'll make you sit up and pay attention. He and his cohorts sound a lot like that proverbial neighborhood garage band, except they're all grown up. There is a rawness to the sound of More Storms Comin' that adds a welcome edge to the music -- it says "this is me, take it or leave it." Selby doesn't try to impress anyone but himself here, and that frees his music to find a groove and stay there, from the first song to the last.

All the tunes here are first rate -- not a throwaway in the bunch. From the blues sound of "Blind Since Birth" or "Down By The Tracks," to the rock-n-roll punch of "She's Like Mercury" and "Smoked," or the soul feel in "I'm The Lucky One," this disc is chock full of superb music. Each song has something to say, each is completely thought out, and there are no wasted lines or notes. Listening to these songs, you can tell that Selby has been around the block more than once in his life. He has seen it all, and absorbed what he's learned.

The sound here is something of a mixed bag. While the guitars shine, with the differences between them easy to follow, the soundstage is flat. Instruments seem to be piled up one on top of each other -- there is precious little air between the musicians, making it hard at times to follow who's playing what. While the drums have heft, they lack the percussive impact of the real thing, and the cymbals lack any semblance of shimmer. Voices, however, do sound real, not cardboardy -- a nice touch. But keep in mind this is electric music for the most part, and, as such, the sound is easily as good as most available today.

We've become a nation too intent on labeling everything. (If you don't believe me, a trip to your local record store should straighten you out; With so many different categories of music, it's almost impossible to find what you want.) I think that's a mistake. It takes an album like More Storms Comin' and an artist like Mark Selby to slap us up side the head and make us realize that music is made to enjoy, no matter how you define it. How 'bout we leave the definitions to someone else (like lawyers and politicians), enjoy this album, and hope that Selby delivers on his promise and that there are More Storms Comin'!