Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Django Mack - ‘Round Christmas

Django Mack - ‘Round Christmas 

You can help but admire someone pushing blues music so convincingly and artistically as Django Mack. It’s more than that though. Over the course of two albums, Mack has carved out his own unique niche in the genre as a creative lyricist who has co-opted the lexicon of blues and Americana music for his own uses. There are often some surprising poetic turns that elevate his words over the typical efforts from this music and Mack’s delivery completely inhabits the music. The newest release from this Sam Francisco based performer is the song “’Round Christmas”, a dramatic and emotionally heavy song teamed with a bonus track entitled “Big Black Dog”. They have a lot of punch, but they hit different areas on the listener. Mack has ensured both songs receive even-handed production that underlines their strengths and keeps things in balance. Everything comes across with startling clarity.  

The single “’Round Christmas” will sink the mood of many listeners, but it’s a facile way of hearing it. This is a very theatrical blues, not in a bad or hackneyed way, but instead it turns the narrator’s personal drama into a quasi-epic where everything is rendered in near life or death terms. Images of ruin and desolation litter the lyric. Mack manages a number of graceful verbal turns and his phrasing takes full advantage of his talents in this area. The arrangement is propelled forward by tasteful but steady drumming with a couple of guitars working their magic over top. The six strings have contrasting sounds and give it a sort of signature edge that makes it different. Mack’s influences have often been referred to as performers like Leon Redbone, Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen, but the funereal emotiveness he summons for this song hits hard and never seems overwrought or imitative.  

He covers familiar ground in the genre with the second song, but pulls it off with every bit of the style that makes “’Round Christmas” sound nothing like many modern offerings in Americana music. “Big Black Dog” doesn’t pretend to have the same seriousness of subject matter and it revels in its humor. The inspired blues piano vamps and tosses in rave up after rave up without ever losing its handle on following the song. Mack and some backing singers give a performance that’s equal parts skill and pure, joyful gusto. This is a song that’s having fun from the moment it hits until the last note plays.  

Go back and check out his two albums to date if you don’t already know. Django Mack is as first class as it comes with this style of music and easily would have occupied a place alongside his idols in another generation. He’s that good and shows no signs of peaking yet. “’Round Christmas” and “Big Black Dog” entertain audiences in very different ways, but the final satisfying effect on listeners remains the same and this sort of musical and songwriting quality will keep them coming back for more.

YOU TUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8sF4YgT3uU 

Charles Hatton

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