Singer-songwriter Mark Houser has bluegrass running through his veins. As Lester Flatt’s cousin, it’s no surprise that he has spent his whole life listening to bluegrass music. Though he has previously recorded a country album and written several songs which have been recorded by bluegrass artists, his first effort at a bluegrass album is the recently released Uneven Road. This twelve-song collection from Rural Rhythm Records offers listeners a solid contemporary bluegrass listening experience.
Houser is credited as writer or co-writer on all twelve of the album’s songs. The tracks range from tender love songs to dark tales of murder and regret. The darker end of the spectrum is where the album’s standout tracks can be found, particularly John the Baptist, a tale of preachers gone bad with a nice groove and hints of recent Mountain Heart and Ricky Skaggs in the music. When one of the characters sees his preacher father “hold ‘em under in the mighty Mississippi, ”it’s not exactly baptism he’s referring to. Delilah is another fine song, sharing the thoughts of a man who wonders if the woman he killed knows he is about to be executed for his crime. The dobro and fiddle on this track work well to create a lonesome sound.
Several of Houser’s songs have been recorded by Carrie Hassler, including this album’s opening track. Hard Rain, which also provided the name for Hassler’s band, is a driving song about a man who is trying to get home to the country as soon as he can. Hassler is also a cowriter on the clever River of Regret.
Uneven Road also contains several songs which are more cheerful. Houser’s love songs are sweet and mellow, with a gentle vocal delivery. I’ll Be Alright and Reasons Why are reminiscent of Don Williams, both sharing the singer’s undying devotion. The title track shares the same sentiment, with the singer asking the one he loves to just let him “bear [her] gently down life’s uneven road.”
The music on this album is excellent. Houser has assembled some first rate pickers to serve as his band, referred to on the album as Bluegrass Drive. Houser takes lead vocal duty throughout the album, in addition to playing guitar. Also featured are Cody Kilby (guitar and banjo), Andy Leftwich (fiddle and mandolin), Cory Walker (banjo), Barry Bales (bass), and Scotty Sanders (dobro). This group obviously has a firm grasp on how to play fine contemporary bluegrass, and as a result, Uneven Road is a very enjoyable listen.
While he is relatively new to the bluegrass world as an artist, Mark Houser isn’t a stranger to the music itself. For more information on Houser and his music, visit www.markhouserbluegrass.com.
The new album can be purchased from his website, as well as various online music retailers.