Now Playing: Mark Cline Bates’ ‘King Of The Crows’

Mark Cline Bates
Image courtesy of Mark Cline Bates

Mark Cline Bates is getting ready for the official release of his new album on June 28.  Titled King Of The Crows, Bates said he “couldn’t be more excited with what we came up with in the studio.”  But first, for those not yet familiar with Bates, a bit of background.

Mark Cline BatesMark Cline Bates

Photo by Ryan Caldwell

Bates is a West Virginia-based singer-songwriter and musician.  According to his official website, writing songs is his “rough-hewn path to solace and personal salvation.”  His rockin’ resume includes four previous releases.  He recorded his premiere platter, Drive By Truckers in 2008.

“Death Sucks”, a song from his 2010 sophomore song serving, Down The Narrow, was chosen as NPR’s “Song of the Day.”  It garnered airplay on the BBC and made it into the Americana UK chart.  He worked in Nashville but found it wasn’t for him:

He recalls: “I was the odd man out in those writing rooms with five dudes wrestling over what kind of truck to sing about.  I never was able to carve a place out I was happy to inhabit. I wanted to tell stories about where I came from. I much prefer being the master and commander of my own storyline – not the ones about jean shorts or Bud Light.”

Bates co-wrote “Take Me Home” for the movie Philly Kid.  He was featured in Billboard and has appeared on TV in Houston and Chicago.  He performs regionally with his band WV Six.  His signature sound is a blend of multiple music genres including Americana, country, and folk.

King Of The Crows

King of The Crows is his fifth disc.  It features unique and even compelling song-stories.  Bates told the press:

“This album is a collection of stories, vignettes, and assorted memories from things I’ve seen, done, or dreamed about along the way. I have spent the last decade trying to capture lightning in a bottle.”

On this simple but effective CD, Bates leads the way on vocals and piano.  He is backed by other artists including producer Don Dixon (bass, trombone, keys, and electric guitar), Jim Brock (drums and percussion), and Michael Lipton (electric guitar).

Track by track

This 12-track album of all original material opens on “Animals” which immediately lets listeners know they’re about to be introduced to a cast of characters no one’s heard of and yet secretly recognizes.  “Mississippi” is the second selection.  The music is comparatively basic but there is a beauty in the simplicity.  The introduction to unique characters continues.

As “Self Control” opens, Bates’ signature sound is clear and sincere.  Plus, you gotta love lyrical lines like: “And the last thing I give is a damn as the world leaves me out in the strange.”

Next is “Baby Don’t Like.”  This is yet another story of an imperfect human with life and relationships.  Bates picks things up a wee bit with the cut called “Caged Up Bull.”  You will certainly feel better about your own lot in life after listening to this one.  If you’re the type of driver to have occasional issues with the law you might even sympathize.

“Devil” follows. Bates’ nigh haunted vocals continued to dominate here.     Let’s be honest though, we all have a devil in us sometimes, don’t we?  “I Don’t Know Why” has a nice beat to it.  It references a character with near-fatal flaws that you just might recognize in someone you know.

“Apathetic Moon” continues along with similar themes but has an obvious country touch to it.

“Highway Signs” is the first single off the album.  It’s another woeful, tuneful tale of trouble that focuses on a character who has made too many bad decisions.  Bates says he “ain’t too good at learnin’ quick, or readin’ highway signs.” He adds: “Depending on the day and time…I feel a great deal of kinship with this imperfect character.”

“Don’t Worry” Is an upbeat, brighter track that is both surprising and welcome.  After all, no one’s life is all “sturm und drang.”  Every cloud has a silver lining.

It’s back to slow and sad with “Ginger.”  It’s a nearly heart-wrenching tune about an old woman facing a not uncommon problem in the US.  It focuses on loss, regret, and aging.

“My Heart Is Good”  is a very personal song that reflects back on Bane’s early years in the business.  It provides a final reminder of the overall message of the album.  We are but mere humans.  Indeed. It is that very humanity and every moment of our lives that make us what we are.

Bates’ songs uncover the flawed everyman that we all may know and see inside ourselves but rarely acknowledge.  Overall, his personal oft’times powerful piano-driven songs about bad turns on rough roads embody the aftermath of emotional responses to our own individual inner demons.  So check out Mark Cline Bates’ King Of The Crows, because we all have our own “Devil” to face.