Album Reviews

 “BLINDMAN’S BLUES" CD REVIEW

Lucky Boyd, MyTexasMusic - Dec 2, 2006

"Some people like the blues. Some don't. Even within the category of blues-lovers there is division. Some like the swampy Delta blues and some like the rock-influenced blues of, let's say, Stevie Ray. Hardcore blues lovers understand the beginning and roots of traditional blues music and therefore have an affinity for artists like Kirby Kelley, Keb'Mo', Lightnin' Hopkins, and T-Bone Walker. It's that tinny acoustic rhythmic chant, often played on slide guitar or resonator that binds true blues fans in a fundamental grass roots passion for all things bluesy. Meet Mark Searcy. Talent will not get you to the plane on which Mark Searcy exists. It requires being touched by something from beyond our comprehension. Performers like Searcy do not simply play their instruments, but rather become their instruments during a performance. Call it soul, call it a gift, or a midnight trade at a lonely cross road, no matter. Searcy has it. Hear this album and you'll be amazed that Searcy is a relative rookie on the music scene. Already an award-winning performer, Searcy stands to turn more than just a few heads in the near future. Goodness, just think where he'll be in ten years. Acoustic blues may be a narrow niche by popular standards, but Searcy is climbing his way to the top of the heap, twelve bars at a time."

 

"SLIDEAWAY" CD REVIEW

Lucky Boyd, My Texas Music - Nov 10, 2007

"If you expect Searcy’s sophomore release to be a simple continuation of his debut release, forget about it. It ain’t so. While you’ll still hear Searcy remaining true to his traditional blues roots on some songs, you’ll also see him take Neil Armstrong-like steps into cross-genre collaboration. This album employs the services of some great company as Searcy surrounds his inventions with certain styles that take little time to appreciate. Searcy’s vocal work is bluesy and complimentary to the arrangements rather than the typical distraction expected from many guitarists who think they can sing. Searcy gets it done. It’s not unusual to see an artist double back after a stunning debut with a more artistic effort. Searcy has done that. Nine of ten are originals, with the lone cover being well worth the purchase. Niche blues fans may not groove the diversity on the first listen, but a second play reveals Searcy’s commitment to the genre, using innovative techniques to express feeling much like shadows and highlights enhance visual works. As up-and-comers try to emulate Searcy, they will find the technical end demanding, as Searcy is an accomplished composer with the ability to fuse jazz, rock, blues, folk, and country. They will certainly find that capturing the same inner soul will be impossible, as Searcy literally melts himself into each cut, a feat that labels him inimitable. A great second effort, Searcy has taken one small step for himself and one giant leap for the blues. This reviewer’s fave is 'Telluride Blues'.”

 

“SLIDEAWAY” CD REVIEW 

Peter Hund – Good New Music, Jan, 2008

As the CD's title and cover suggest, there's lots of slide guitar here. Award-winning, Texas-based Searcy employs the style with six-string, 12-string, acoustic, electric and resonator guitars. "Slideaway" is his third release, and the first almost entirely made up of original material (B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone" is the only cover).

He wastes no time getting down to business with the opening "Promised Land," a blues-rock number with an unusual backbeat that pricks up the ears in the first few bars. Note-bending riffs underscore lyrics addressing social issues from vigilantism to No Child Left Behind to original sin.

"Ghost Town Blues" is the first of four instrumentals and one of four songs featuring harmonica by Drywall Dave Schlabach, the only other musician on this mostly DIY affair (Searcy handles bass himself and uses a drum machine on songs with percussion). Electric slide, acoustic 12-string and chromatic harp combine to invoke a gothic Western feel. "Betty May" is an electric blues tune about a car – or is it? – with solos alternating between harmonica and guitar. "K'eb" is an acoustic instrumental that sounds more like K'eb Mo' mentors Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal playing together for the first time since the Rising Sons broke up. "If You Love Me" is a pop-rocker in which electric slide does the chorus rather than vocals, and also has great-sounding rhythm guitar. "Becker's Run" closes the album on a high note, with an extended electric instrumental that channels Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

 

“WILD NIGHT IN TEXAS” CD REVIEW

Review by Lucky Boyd, January, 2010
Co-founder, MyTexasMusic.com


Mark Searcy assembles a top-notch band and offers the next installment of fantastic blues music with a Texas feel. Searcy continues his tradition of outstanding guitar work and adds exhilarating harmonica from Rick Boss. The album also features the stellar vocal work of the band’s diva, Kori Hubbard. Searcy winds his way through multiple edges of the blues genre from traditional styles to modern and innovative compositions. 

The album’s closing cut is one of Searcy’s epic renditions, which features every feel good lick you can think of. The opener is the title track, which sets the toe-tapping tone for the disc. Searcy follows up with “Cuban Getaway” which marries the band’s inimitable Texas blues style with a samba dance tune that epitomizes the diversity of the project. Hubbard vocalizes on Searcy’s “Bear A Little Rain,” a well written, country feel twelve-bar gem. Chicago comes into view on “Cruisin’,” a Rick Boss co-write. Boss also pens “Your Spices Out” which features Searcy on the resonator in this swampy Delta-style offering that actually made me hungry while listening. Hubbard appears again on “Te Ni Nee Ni Nu” which might be the most commercial track on the disc. Boss and Searcy are both featured in this solid performance. You might not expect a John Prine cover on this disc, but then again, this is Mark Searcy, who has no fear when it comes to adding his brand of talent to any style. Back on the resonator on “Angel From Montgomery,” Searcy proves that no genre is exempt from this band’s embrace. Precise guitar and harmonica work are the order on “Stumblin’” which is one of the album’s two fully instrumental cuts. Throughout, Searcy proves that he’s a mainstay on the Texas blues music scene. Being familiar with Searcy’s music, I had certain expectations when I began listening to this disc. Searcy and the band did not disappoint. This is a great project, start to finish.

 

“WILD NIGHT IN TEXAS” CD REVIEW

Review by Jim Beal, Jr. January, 2010
San Antonio Express News

The Mark Searcy Band plays blues, all right, but the band mixes it up, delivering straight-up 12-bar action, Texas-style boogie, swampy selections and resonator guitar-driven acoustic blues. The band -- Searcy (guitar, vocals), Kori Hubbard (vocals), Rick Boss (harmonica, vocals), Ricky Smith (bass) and Lyle Burke (drums) -- have a repertoire that balances covers and originals.
Highlights of "Wild Night in Texas" include a cover of Slim Harpo's "Te Ni Nee Ni Nu," Searcy's "Stumblin' " and Boss' "Your Spices Out." Searcy and Boss can flat get down on guitar and harmonica respectively, but both show proper restraint by serving the songs instead of the egos. Listen for the guitar/harp duet on "Stumblin'" to hear how it should be done. Variety is a good thing for the blues. The Searcy Band is doing a good thing.

 

“WILD NIGHT IN TEXAS” CD REVIEW

Les Reynolds – Indie-Music.com 2010

Mark Searcy's brand of blues runs all over the map. Versatility is the order of the day as he serves up swing and jump blues, Delta blues a la Johnson, Davis and House, rock blues and a blend of Chicago and jump blues for good measure. Heavy on electric guitar with plenty of blues harp fills and solos, this group's got the stuff.
"Your Spices Out" begins with a dark, old-time acoustic style slide intro with accompanying blues harp. There's nothing new under the sun here. It's pure D 12-bar blues. If this is how you like it, then, well, you'll like it. Very well done.  "Wild Night in Texas" and "Stumblin" (number two and number six on the playlist) introduce swing and jump blues into the picture, both excellently executed where instrumentation is concerned.  In fact, Stumblin' is totally instrumental and it's that song which blends with Chicago style blues.  Something else a little different is "Cuban Getaway." Latin blues? Yep. This is another all-instrumental tune that's very danceable. It sounds a bit strange at first; but, it grows on you.  "Blood of the Open Road" starts out sounding dark, dusty, like something out of the Old West with electric guitar in the intro. Only, this "intro" proves to be incredibly slow and long. The melancholy and emotional sting of the guitar saves it, and before too much longer, the tempo increases a bit and settles into a nice south Texas blues groove. The song, coming in at just a shade over nine minutes, could have been done in less time. But still not bad.

"Bear a Little Rain" could perhaps be the best of the six - overall, anyway. The simple melody anchors a smoky, flowing southern rock/country/blues song with plenty of blues harp that might have benefited from a little bit more "dirt." The nice female vocal, which was very nice indeed, would have also improved things with more grit. However, with some nice slide guitar added to the mix, this tune is quite good. 

Hopefully, Mark & Co. have more down the line.

 

“ROADWORTHY” CD REVIEW

Review by Lucky Boyd, June 16, 2011,
Co-founder, MyTexasMusic.com

Yowza!  That’s what you’ll exclaim as the opening cut grabs your attention on the latest release from acclaimed Mark Searcy Band.  Ginger Pickett’s vocal work on the lead off “Voodoo Woman” sets the tone for the project.  Kori Hubbard takes over on vocals on “What You Are” and the excellence continues.  Searcy surrounds himself with a host of talent including Louie Real and Carlos Escobedo (which you might have seen with the Wolf Sisters) and Jeff Keast on keys.  Searcy’s band also includes Texas Music Awards 2011 Nominee Rick Boss on harmonica.  With this collection of pickers, it’s no wonder that this is Searcy’s best work to date.  The dynamic of the album is varied without breaking genre.  The blues are intertwined with jazz and gospel influences for a new sound that makes Searcy’s band a truly hot commodity on the music scene today.  Searcy has come a long way from the grass-roots purity of BLINDMAN’S BLUES and has a more commercial feel these days.  There are times in the music when you can feel his connection to his upbringing, but for the most part, he has moved on to the next phase of his music.  Searcy pens the majority, peppers in a few co-writes with Hubbard, Boss, and others, and covers a couple of classics.  Mark takes the microphone on but one cut, the raucous “Wang Dang Love Thang” to close the album.  The flow of the album is one of the best features of the album, which is why it should be a felony to buy one song from an album.  Artists go into the studio and lay down an album, a collection, a project, of which they have spent countless hours debating and even arguing about the order of the songs.  Why?  The order doesn’t matter if you’re going to let people strip your creativity one download at a time.  This is why MyTexasMusic.com only allows full album downloads.  Whatever you do, make sure you listen to this disc in the order it is displayed.  Unless you do, you will miss the emotion and passion with which it was recorded.  Searcy puts together nine cuts of pure entertainment and it should be enjoyed exactly has he envisioned it.  I usually don’t advise artists to self-produce, and in the early days, Searcy might have been better served by hiring out a producer, but the road, the work, and the experience have brought Mark Searcy to the point where he not only is masterful at this self-production, but he would be a good candidate as producer for any artist serious about capturing true expression on disc.  The highlight of the disc is the sultry performance by Kori Hubbard on “Chocolate and Cherries.”  This epic recording is best experienced with over-the-ears headphones, cigar in hand, eyes closed, and the smell of whiskey nearby.  It doesn’t take much to transform yourself to a magical place, the likes of which haven’t existed since the demise of Generic Joe’s on Sixth Street.  Searcy is not Memphis, Chicago, or New Orleans.  Searcy is Texas, the red, the white, and the blues.

 

“ROADWORTHY” CD REVIEW

Jim Beal, San Antonio Express News – June 29, 2011

“Roadworthy” blues

Arkansas-bred, San Antonio-based blues guitar slinger, songwriter and singer Mark Searcy and his Mark Searcy Band Thursday night will celebrate the release of “Roadworthy,” the follow-up to “Wild Night in Texas,” at Sam's Burger Joint. Brother Fork and the Spooners and The Avey Brothers open. Downbeat is set for 7:30. Cover is $7. The Mark Searcy Band — Searcy, Kori Hubbard (vocals), Louie Real (bass), Carlos Escobedo (drums) and Rick Boss (harmonica, vocals) — and a handful of guests have turned in another strong effort. While the Searcy band covers Koko Taylor (“Voodoo Woman”) and Teeny Tucker (“I Live Alone”), it's the originals that shine.  Standouts include Hubbard's spare spiritual “Dust in the Sand,” Boss' “Loopty Loop” and Hubbard/Searcy songs including “What You Are” and “Chocolate and Cherries.” The blues can always use a shot of fresh blood, and the Mark Searcy Band delivers those shots.

 

SAN ANTONIO BLUES SOCIETY NEWSLETTER – NOVEMBER 2014

The cold rainy weather could not keep the crowds away from this year’s Robert Johnson SA Sessions festival at Sam’s Burger Joint lastSaturday night. Mark Searcy’s opening performance was a classic one, blending narratives and stone cold delta blues. Mark’s musical ventures have led him to absorb and perform blues, jazz, rock, and combinations of all. His abilities almost limitless. This may have been the first time many of us have experienced and appreciated the depth of Mark’s devotion to the true roots of blues. We are proud to have Mark Searcy as a Member Artist of the San Antonio Blues Society, and we congratulate him on the most recent (of many) award, The Texas Music Awards Musician of the Year for 2014.

 

"STRAWBERRY JAM 1975" CD REVIEW

http://www.bluesblastmagazine.com/mark-searcy-strawberry-jam-1975-album-review/

May 19, 2017 By Greg "Bluesdog" Szalony

Mark Searcy – Strawberry Jam 1975 / Moose Milk Music / 10 songs time-46:28

Arkansas native and San Antonio, Texas based singer-guitarist Mark Searcy Middleton offers up music on this, his ninth release, that is an amalgamation of various influences. Those influences include rock, funk, fusion, blues, R&B, jazz and who knows what else. While the singing is sufficient along with the writing, the crux of this biscuit is Mark’s way with his guitar skills as he takes us along for the ride incorporating rock, blues, fusion, slide, jazz and more into his playing. Along with his solos, the punchy one-man multi-tracked horn section of Al Gomez and the keyboard skills of Steve Chase and Buck Thomas, the instrumental portions of this CD are a thing to behold. Not to forget the interchangeable rhythm section featuring various players. My favorites are the three diverse instrumental tracks. Add to that Candice Sanders and her soulful gem of a voice, whether doing multi-tracked backing vocals or her lone duet with Mark.

Mark handles slide and rhythm guitar on my favorite vocal track “I Don’t Feel So Good”, a chugging piece of musical goodness featuring some “tinkly” piano courtesy of Steve Chase and the haunting voice of Candice Sanders following the lead vocal at every twist and turn. Candice pours on the soulfulness as she duets on the slow-burning “When Time Stands Still”. The lovely guitar soloing and late night jazzy piano makes this another standout track.

Mark’s interpretation of Debbie Davies instrumental “Holdin’ Court” sounds like a track from later day spiritual Carlos Santana. The soaring guitar lines reach for the heavens over the requisite percussion fest. This song is almost a religious experience. The second instrumental “Black Diamond” begins as a slow, moody ground swell of guitar and electric piano that builds into an intense guitar display. This one brings to light the hint of Jeff Beck early smoldering fusion music. The last instrumental “Cassiopeia” starts off with a brief guitar crescendo before leading into heavy crunch-time Jeff Beck territory before tagging the tune with a snippet of Martin Barre (of Jethro Tull) style clever guitar gymnastics. Dang this guy Mark knows he can play him some geetar, Boy Howdy!

After a short acoustic intro, “Strawberry Jam 1975” turns morphs into a Doobie Brothers-meets-The Allman Brothers twin lead guitar dual between Mark and himself. Neat trick. He builds and trades off solos like The Allman’s patented. The narrator recounts his first kiss and ensuing relationship with his girl. Funky horns, Candice’s multi-tracked backing vocals, punchy horn section along with the ever present guitar and slide guitar goodness cap off things with “Fast Road To Your Grave”.

The singing and songwriting are good, but it’s the musicianship that raises the playing field. This isn’t music that is easily categorized, but whatever you want to call it, it’s a guaranteed enjoyable good time.

 

"GRAPETOWN RAIL" CD REVIEW

http://www.bluesblastmagazine.com/issue-11-23-june-8-2017/

June 8th, 2017 By Marty Gunther

Mark Searcy – Grapetown Rail / MooseMilk Music / 12 songs – 37 minutes

Arkansas native Mark Searcy Middleton learned how to play the guitar as a child, abandoned it to raise a family and picked it up again after 15 years to rehabilitate himself after damaging several fingers in a work-related accident — and the world of acoustic blues is in a better place because of it.

Now working professionally under his first and middle names and based out of San Antonio, Texas, for years, Searcy emerged from the musical wilderness to release one previous album before attracting attention for 2007’s Blind Man’s Blues, earned him a Texas Music Awards nomination for musician of the year.

A man whose first love is pre-War acoustic music, especially Blind Willie McTell, Blind Willie Johnson and Robert Johnson, as well as a diverse group that includes T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, Wes Montgomery and Sean Costello, he captured that prize seven years — and five releases — later in 2013 for the instrumental CD, Hazepipe, which fused his skills in rock, jazz and blues.

A top-five finalist in the national Telluride Blues Festival Acoustic Blues Challenge and a two-time semi-finalist at the International Blues Challenge, Searcy has devoted himself to acoustic blues ever since. Grapetown Rail, the third disc since he returned to the format, is a bare-bones production that features Mark on resonator and acoustic guitars and vocals, accompanied only by harmonica player Rick Boss, who appears on two tracks.

A haunting Spanish-influenced instrumental, “Gallows Callin’,” the first of nine originals, puts Mark’s prodigious six-string skills on display to kick off the 12-song set, tying perfectly into “Hangman Blues.” The latter picks up speed as it expresses fear that the executioner is on the singer’s trail after shooting two men in Dallas for messing with his family and then skipping bail. Searcy’s vocals are crisp and strong.

Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman” gets a warm treatment with Mark on resonator before a run of four new tunes with an old-time feel. “Homecooking” is a beautiful instrumental that hints of Stephen Foster’s “Oh Susanna,” while “Grapetown Rail,” aided by Boss, is a vocal tribute to workers who constructed a 920-foot tunnel for the San Antonio Fredericksburg And Northern Railroad, which went belly-up during World War II. “Chance In Your World” is a plea for love, while the instrumental “Rainmaker” cascades with some sensational picking.

Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Left My Baby Standing” is up next before another trio of originals: the tasty instrumental “Hochatown,” “Misfit Blues,” which sings about being locked in the cellar by a woman who runs off with another man, and “Mississippi Morning,” a slow-paced instrumental steeped in the Delta. The set closes with Searcy and Boss delivering a sprightly version of Tampa Red’s “You Can’t Get The Stuff No More.”

Available through Amazon, CDBaby or directly through the artist’s website (address above), Grapetown Rail is a delight. The state of Texas is so big that many musicians don’t travel far beyond its borders despite producing terrific albums. Pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.