Mark Insley


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Mark Insley and company lay down a solid, rootsy base for their vigorous brand of country music on Tucson. A note of desperation hovers around "The Ice Machine," a bluesy tale of a lonely man in the middle of nowhere with a broken ice machine. This anxious mood of too little sleep and raw nerves is mirrored by slide guitar and driving percussion. There's a gritty take on "She's Actin' Single," highlighted by Clare Muldaur's harmony, that gives this Top 40 song a fresh start. There's lots of good stuff here, most of it written by Insley, but the standout track is "The Alchemist's Heart." This story of unrequited love is sharpened by great lines like, "Cigarettes and whiskey and another sleepless night/Knew that it was getting risky, but still I went out and picked a fight." Obviously he's got it bad. Many of the characters on Tucson wouldn't be out of place on a Steve Earle or Robert Earl Keen album. Crunchy cowpunk drives "Bus to Bakersfield," a rocking put-down aimed at a no 'count woman, while the singer of "Did I Wake You?" apologizes for a late-night phone call to an old lover. Love, it seems, has been hard on Insley. Luckily, a crappy love life can be a gristmill for a solid artistic statement. Tucson's brand of alternative country digs deep into the emotion of heartbreak and comes up with a handful of first-rate songs.

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