Mark Erelli has developed a reputation as powerful singer/songwriter, and Compass & Companion shows that his reputation is well-deserved. There is a great deal of musical variety on this album that keeps the listener paying attention. "Why Should I Cry" is a nice piece of Western swing with some great guitar playing, while "Before I Knew Your Name" is straight folk. Erelli is in good voice for this recording, and has written a number of insightful songs. "Before I Knew Your Name" is an evocative piece, capturing how love transforms our familiar surroundings. There is also an angry streak in Erelli, as on "Free Ride," where he castigates a young person who believes the world waits for him. "Did you think they'd part the seas for you like Moses?," he asks cuttingly. Despite a little anger here and there, he holds onto his sense of humor in the catchy "Little Sister," bragging that "My little sister makes more than you/What is this crazy world coming to?." There are a number of songs about problematic relationships. These songs don't always work, especially on "Miracle Man" where Erelli rebukes a lover with "I can't change/The water to wine/I can't pull you up/If you don't want to climb." Such triads can come off as self-serving. Still, it should be pointed out that "Miracle Man," like most of the songs on Compass & Companion, has a good melody. The running time of this album is 41 minutes, which may not seem like a long album, but there's no padding. Compass & Companion is a worthy follow-up to his self-titled debut, and will be warmly appreciated by lovers of good folk music.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
feat: Kelly Willis