Mark McGuinn (VFR Records)
At first glance, Mark McGuinn doesn't look the part of country crooner - his beret and hip glasses are worlds apart from cowboy hats, big gold belt buckles and tight jeans.
It turns out his music is as fresh and eclectic as his look. His debut effort is a progressive country album with an abundance of musical styles - an exhilarating blend of traditional and contemporary country, shades of folk, a little bit of swing and traces of honky-tonk. Mark's roots are in jazz, and it's also easy to hear those influences on these dozen songs, 11 of which he co-wrote.
"Mrs. Steven Rudy," a loping, banjo-laced number about a boy in love with his married next-door neighbor, is already a surprise Top 10 hit. Mark McGuinn's other highlights are too numerous to mention, but include the snappy "No Way," about a girl who defies her father for love; the true-to-life heartbreak of "She Doesn't Dance"; the Jimmy Buffettesque "Love Don't Float"; and "Silver Platter," which gives a heads-up to people who want something for nothing.
All over his debut, Mark McGuinn brings a refreshing, liberating new sound to country music - he's like an ice-cold drink on a hot, muggy summer afternoon.
- Maria Konicki Dinoia