Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mark Zane and Friends at the Blue Frog Coffeehouse

What a shame folks in Cortland spent a rainy Friday night huddled beneath umbrellas at football games instead of sitting inside the cozy Blue Frog Coffeehouse listening to Mark Zane and Friends play. Those of us delighting in the tasty goods at the Blue Frog were treated to a fantastic show by Mark accompanied by Steve Pederson’s masterful bass and Frankie Diamond’s enticing electric guitar along with harmonica riffs courtesy of Paul Marconi and magical vocal harmonies tendered by Mary Snell.

These musicians worked so well together under Mark’s gentle guidance, one would never know they didn’t play together every night of the week. Perhaps they should; they have a certain chemistry that was a pleasure to witness. Mark is the most generous musician I’ve seen in a long time, and when he invited Jim Bob up on stage to sing “Country Roads” with him, the magic only Mark can work came to life once again. You had to be there to see it unfold. I could never find the right words to explain it. Next time, come in from the rain, sit a spell, listen and see it for yourself. It’s well worth your time.

Mark played many of his original tunes from his American Hunger CD and some from his “next” CD, one that cannot be released any time too soon for me, for these songs are amazing and I want them playing in my office as I write. I especially love his newest anthem to this wife, “I Got a Woman”. His tribute to one of my favorite Arthur Miller plays, called “Me and the Devil”, is becoming hard to forget, too. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again: his lyrics force you to think about a situation, long after he’s played his last note. He doesn’t tell you how to think, he just reminds you that there’s more than one way to look at anything.

The Friends helped play some toe-tapping cover songs, too, by Springsteen, the Moody Blues, Dylan, and Neil Young. Paul and Frankie did a fine job on some Townes VanZandt tunes. But I have to say my favorite of the evening was a cover of song by White Lion called “When the Children Cry.” I had never heard this song before, probably because I was too busy during the time period it was first recorded NOT listening to the music my kids played back then. Mary Snell did the singing and Mark played guitar while sitting on a stool beside her. Their performance was riveting, Mary’s vocals quickly quieting the room, drawing you into the song and insisting you hang on her every word. Mark’s guitar playing gave you a glimpse into his metal-playing past and sounded as if the entire band was backing Mary at times. Listening to them, you couldn’t help but forget everything and anything around you. There was only the song, only that moment.

How rare that kind of moment is, yet there it was, at the Blue Frog Coffeehouse, on a windy, rainy Friday night, when Mark Zane and his Friends took the stage. I was so happy to have been in the audience for such a special performance. Thanks to all who made it possible!


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