Mark A'lleven - Filling In the Gap

Mark A'lleven
MarkAllevanCD.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Mark A'lleven's musical home is located in that area where the sacred and the carnal intersect. The strong, throaty vocals, the growls, yelps and hollers that A'lleven uses on his debu album, Filling In the Gap, have a place on a Saturday night band stand and a Sunday morning choir stand. Of course, that's what soul music does. It makes explicit the implied fusion of the black religious experience in all of its manifestations with the blues and R&B music. Ray Charles employed the same yells and hollers as well as the call and response style of singing that has long been a staple of the black church. Singers like Marvin Gaye and Jerry Butler used phrases that were a common part of pulpit rhetoric in their songs. The raw edges of soul music got smoothed out as artists and producers looked for ways to make the music more palatable to the mass audiences. These days, that kind of hard singing has been all but excised from mainstream music.

Mark A'lleven's musical home is located in that area where the sacred and the carnal intersect. The strong, throaty vocals, the growls, yelps and hollers that A'lleven uses on his debu album, Filling In the Gap, have a place on a Saturday night band stand and a Sunday morning choir stand. Of course, that's what soul music does. It makes explicit the implied fusion of the black religious experience in all of its manifestations with the blues and R&B music. Ray Charles employed the same yells and hollers as well as the call and response style of singing that has long been a staple of the black church. Singers like Marvin Gaye and Jerry Butler used phrases that were a common part of pulpit rhetoric in their songs. The raw edges of soul music got smoothed out as artists and producers looked for ways to make the music more palatable to the mass audiences. These days, that kind of hard singing has been all but excised from mainstream music.

A'lleven is a southern-style soul singer, and as such he is among a group of men and women vocalists defiantly committed to plowing deeply into the roots of the music. A'lleven's music won't appeal to everyone. Nonetheless, Mark A'lleven introduces the world to a singer who has no intentions of leaving the straight path of southern soul music. You listen to this album, and it's clear that there is no way that A'lleven could take some of the soul out of his voice. He is a grown man singer who wears his life's experience on his sleeve. Honesty is the gospel singer's main currency. Unless their lives conform to the words they sing, there is no way that they can convince listeners that they have the anointing. A'lleven brings that kind of passion to the wordly music that is his specialty.

A'lleven's music gets into the guts of relationships in a way that youth orientated R&B can't approach. That's what allows him to express the things that continually attract him to his lover on a song like "Little Things." On the bluesy "I Want You," A'lleven sings, growls, bends and stretches notes to express how he resists the advances of an army of women to keep his eye on the one he wants, while on "Let It Flow," A'lleven tells his lover that it's time to drop the pretense and let passions run free. This is another funky, up-tempo number in which A'lleven's vocals work in sync with the funky electric organs and kicking drums.

After listening to Mark A'lleven, I'm not sure that this vocalist could compromise on his sound even if he wanted to. It's also clear that he doesn't want to. That's good because there is an audience out there that will listen and embrace this purveyor of grown folk soul. Recommended 

By Howard Dukes

 

Leave a comment!