Youtube brings us new stars every day, Twitter brings new trends every 5 minutes, and new styles seem to disappear almost before anyone knows how to spell them. Isn´t it good to know there are people around who not only know how to hold their instruments, they´ve been playing them so long they´ve become part of their persona.
All this and more went through my mind last weekend in The Hague watching some old friends do what they do best: making music. When I say old friends I wish I could say old in the sense that we´ve known each other for decades. This is not true: I have only know Mak and one of his Insiders, John, for 3 years. So, yes, it´s old in the number of years on the planet sense. Nothing to complain about there as Mak has spent these long years in many places doing many things, but always playing the music he loves most: Americana and country. The brand new cd, The Lowland Years, is a celebration of Mak´s years in the Netherlands and is also a distillation of his life experience. Mak has this music flowing in his veins, he has stories to tell, and a wonderful team of musicians around him to brings his songs to life.
Mak´s songs are beautiful and simple. Like the best country music, everything is there to tell a story. This means the arrangements have to be clean in their making and in their execution and they have to be detailed so that the most significant moments in the story are pointed up and highlighted. Like the best country music there is a sense of economy. You don´t need a 50 piece orchestra washing around you and you don´t need a horn section covering up your tracks. Mak & The Insiders have all they need in a compact band who make a tight sound that is clean as a whistle: rhythm guitar, lead, bass and pedal steel or slide guitar and percussion.
For the launch gig, John played cajón to fit onto the limited stage area of Foots music bar and I have heard him play drum kit enough times to know that if he had had room for a kit he would have brought endless jewels of detail, interesting fills and rhythmic interest without ever overpowering the voice.
The cover painting, shown here, is from View of The Hague from the Southeast by Jan van Goyen ca. 1650 – 51, from the Haags Historisch Museum in The Hague.
I hope Mak will let me know his Soundcloud tag so that you can hear his music. Watch this space.
Thanks to Mak Wolven & The Insiders for a great cd, a fun afternoon at the bar, and for stimulating my reflections on newness, age and greatness.