The blues has become too derivative. It's a lampoon. But Paul Mark isn't mad about that, he's just a little sick and tired.
"One of the reasons I got into this to begin with was to build little stories, not just mimic old acts," Mark says via Bat-phone from Gotham. "There has to be something about it that goes beyond 'Sweet Home Chicago' or 'Stormy Monday.'"
Paul Mark and The Van Dorens play relentless, salacious roots music befitting their B-movie floozy moniker and Mark's lyrical strato-vision. On their new, fourth release, Indigo Vertigo (Radiation), this New York City trio dives face-first into the roots-rock mêlée where it all began.
"People have said to me, 'Your records don't always sound like what you sound like live,'" says Mark. "They miss that raucous barroom thing, the ambiance. I tried to hone in on that a little more this time. This truly is straight-ahead barroom music."
It's Mark's guitar that keeps the band rooted where his descriptive, story-like lyrics don't. The blues is about innuendo and intangible emotion. His music pulls at heartstrings scarred by timeless wounds, while the pulp-poetic lyrics unfold as if subtitled on a drive-in movie screen. It's like a book on tape full of cads, cats, cons, cuties, Cadillacs, and card-sharks, all parading out in Mark's trademark monster baritone and into the ears of John Q. Rockfan.
The Van Dorens are essentially a rhythm and blues outfit, with the blues simply serving as a launch pad. Destination: dance floor.
And they ain't nice.
"I think the worst thing to happen to blues/roots music in the last 25 years is that it became dignified," Mark says. "You go to these blues festivals where people are there with baby carriages and balloons, and they say, 'Isn't this nice music?'" This cuts Mark deep. "I was always drawn to this music because it wasn't nice," he says in a raised voice. "It was subversive, and the people who played it --- well, you didn't want to have them to your place for dinner."
You can have dinner with Paul Mark and The Van Dorens on Friday, October 18, at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 99 Court Street, at 10 p.m. 325-7090 or www.paulmark.com.
--- Frank De Blase
Darlings of blue-eyed soul, The Rustix, reunite for Rochester Music Hall of Fame induction.