If you live in Vermont but want to make a record that sounds like it was made in Nashville, you need a producer that knows how to achieve the famous Nashville sound. Mark LeGrand has producer Colin McCaffrey, who, with fiddle, guitars, slides, and anything else with strings, ensures it’s going to evoke that classic sound. Finally, and most importantly, you need songs written in the tradition of Nashville and Vermont singer-songwriter Mark LeGrand has finely crafted them in spades on his new EP Wrong Turn.
The result is a record that’s slick and well-produced in a way that allows it to rise and fall on the quality of LeGrand’s assured vocal delivery and songwriting. This is not to say that at every turn the right impulse is there—be it an ‘in your face’ lead, a poignant passage, or an anti-lead sneaking up quietly on the side. But in the end, everything on this record is bound by LeGrand’s emotive style, allowing the story of the songwriter’s songwriter to break on through.
LeGrand immediately offers up the title track Wrong Turn that will undoubtedly get stuck in your head as it rides like silk with smooth hooks, classic pop-country arrangement, and lyrics fraught with real-world danger of a clandestine relationship.
“And soon there will be hell to pay.”
If the title Wrong Turn doesn’t offer the darkness it hints at, then the second song Every time, I’m Getting Over You tries a little harder:
“There’s the whiskey, and over there’s the glass
There’s the pipe, waiting for the match
And there’s the cocaine, telling me what to do
Every time, I’m getting over you”
Now we’re onto some real-world stuff, and whether it’s reflecting Montpelier, Vermont or the rest of America, you’d better hold on for the ride.
In The Cops Took My Sweetheart Last Night, it gets grittier:
“That woman don’t hold back
When she’s high on crack
The cops took my sweetheart last night
It was me that called them on the phone
And now I’m sitting here all alone
There’s a hole in our screen door
From her 44”
I know there are songs on this record that will be played more often. The title track is a cheating song—check; the last song, which sounds like it’s a Wille Nelson cover: I Don’t Sing in Barrooms Anymore, may be one of LeGrand’s most classically fitting country ballads. (If Willie doesn’t end up covering it, I’ll be surprised.) But it’s the fourth song that will probably get the least airplay, yet should get the most attention.
Listen folks, I know Vermont had that article a few years ago in Rolling Stone about heroin use. I also know New Hampshire residents during the last election pleaded with every candiate that courted them, be they Dimwits or Repugnants, to help them with their own opiate addiction problems that have been tearing at the fabric of their society. Recently the Governor of Maryland declared a ‘national Emergency” over its own drug epidemic. But never has a song been written with such painful authenticity than Four Walls, a Door, and a Window. I say this as I know personally that LeGrand, along with his wife, have recently taken guardianship of their grandchild due to a family member’s struggle with addiction. Their own demons are not just between the lines, they are in them:
“The frost fell on my windshield
It’s colder than the night before
I miss my babies around me
And I’m chilled down to my core
My eyes are hot from crying
And I ache down deep in my bones
Got to get myself to the clinic
And I wish I could just go home”
Producer McCaffrey offers an unforgiving distorted slide guitar that sets the tone with LeGrands understated delivery forcing the stark reality to sink in:
“There are people who are trying to help me
By Friday night they all go home
And my boyfriend might get it together
But our address is still unknown”
Then there’s the chorus that brings it all home:
“I need Four Walls, a door and a window
And a town that don’t hurt anymore
I need a guardian angel beside me
To pick me up off of the floor”
Thankfully this hard-truth reckoning of a song is followed by the aforementioned “I Don’t Sing in Barrooms Anymore” that let’s the album settle peacefully:
“The band has packed up all its gear and put it up for sale
The old van finally rusted out before the engine failed
It never was the money that we did it for
I don’t sing in barrooms anymore.”
…but not without one last cynical word:
“Good folks on the weekend blowing off some steam
After working hard all week chasing down the dream
Now everybody gets their fix down at the drug store
and I don’t sing in barrooms anymore”
Hey, it ain’t always a pretty world we’re living in but the beauty of an artist laying it bare makes it easier to understand.
~ This album is a guerilla release and it’s not even on his website yet. It can be obtained by contacting the artist at the website of his last album.