Live Review: Mark Mackay at West Hollywood House of Blues


Material: Storytelling is intrinsic to country music, and Mark Mackay’s tunes revolve around autobiographical tales. The staccato banjos, twangy Fender Telecaster tone and a deep southern drawl work together like biscuits and gravy. “Call It Good” and “Pick Up The Pieces” are the standout tracks in his catalog because of their energy and dynamics. The former breaks down to a calm before a catchy, rocking chorus, and the latter’s arpeggiated banjo riff travels over distorted chords, while a classic hoedown beat drives it home. Unlike his country rock songs, slower material like “Better In Love” or “Come Along For The Ride” lacks the same passion.

Musicianship: A competent guitarist, Mackay tastefully finds a home for his licks. He has some flash, but doesn’t overplay his welcome. He could, however, add some girth to his vocals to sound more confident. Monnett’s gentle steel guitar riffs paint romantic backgrounds to complement Langham’s intense strumming patterns. Langham and Mackay trade licks and match up nicely. Brewer lays down basic lines, which could be livelier. He could attack his parts like Carter, who plays with excellent dynamics, which work for the ballads and heavier songs.

Performance: Mackay hammered out a set of originals, with a lively cover of Jason Aldean’s “When She Says Baby” thrown in. Unfortunately, the cover was the climax of the set. If Mackay could harness that energy and apply it to his own material, which is well-written and easy to sing along to, he would be well on his way.

On every song, Mackay or Langham played twangy, vibrato-filled solos that melded beautifully with the music. “Pick Up The Pieces” got the crowd moving and Mackay injected some passion into the song. Although Carter sang backups, adding another voice would richen the sound. Fortunately, Carter’s heavy foot and pocket playing solidified the rhythms, because Brewer was drowned out the entire set.

Summary: Mark Mackay is a crafty songwriter, but more assertive vocals would liven the material. Country rock is where he thrives with his compelling lyrics that tell stories and connect with the listener. Revamping and energizing the slower material will complete the artist's sound.

-Vincent Stevens