At first glance, the world of indie folk may seem overstuffed. After all, with so many singer-songwriters picking up their acoustic guitar and hoping to jam their way into a newfound sense of innovation, there’s only so much you can do. Some are bound to succeed in carving their own niche in the scene while others are just bound to succeed in sounding like the next affected Dylan knockoff to perform at their town fair. Mark Peters, however, by serendipity or some other force of nature, falls firmly into the former category, thankfully. While you may be able to derive his music from the likes of Ben Howard and Ryan Adams, there’s enough of an innate bluesman and jazzman in him, yet, that makes him unique without having to even attempt to haphazardly recreate the wheel.
Spirit, by all means, is a fine title to give an album with such an inherent heartfulness to it. Straightaway, the urban London import shows off his songwriting chops with the wistful emotiveness of the rollicking “Memories”. Invoking inspirited violin into proceedings on the track’s bridge, “Memories” starts a fire without letting it get out of hand, gorgeous layers of vocals making up much of the track’s progression alongside tasteful guitar licks. “Move Me” mixes in some of his jazzier inclinations, having grown up influenced by the clubs and buskers of his London upbringing, and honestly sounding a bit like the earlier tunes produced by a hungrier Ed Sheeran, with “You Go Low” taking this envelope and pushing it a little harder.
While “Chinese Torture” feels lyrically reliant on cliches to tell its story, title track “Spirits” inspires with its brooding, blues-accented flair and might just be the most scintillating track on the EP. “24 Years” also shines, with its urban folk influence leaning into a spitfire vocal groove that never relents.
All in all, Spirits is a grand entry into Mark Peters’ catalog. It’s been a long time coming, too, with the work representing 15 years of labor on the artist’s behalf. With a dash of acoustic pop blended into overarching elements of folk, jazz, blues, and soul, there’s much to enjoy here for everyone. Peters innovates, and he does so by relying on the roots music that has made his career possible to begin with, with their ensnaring, all-encompassing styles.