I was sure I had head Mark’s voice before and only after a bit of digging did I figure out where that was. Mark was once part of The Holy Innocents which I featured on the blog way back in 2012. Since then Mark has went out on his own. He first started performing as Arborist in February 2013.
Paradoxically, he left the Holy Innocents as he was unhappy with the direction and working on someone else’s songs however he ended up working with Ben McAuley who he was in The Holy Innocents with on his new project.
Handily Ben is a sound engineer and drummer and so has come on board to the Arborist project.
Even more so than the Holy Innocents, who had a americana twinge to them but with a strong indie sway, Arborist in not shy about highlighting the fact that it is an americana outfit. Mark’s style has some wonderful aspects. His songs are beautifully composed and pieced together. He even stated himself that he prefers the studio than the live space and it clearly shows in his songs. There is clear craft in songs like “Boarder Blood”, there are a number of different parts to the melody but they are arranged to fit perfectly together around Mark’s warm vocals. Sounding like what would happen if the Decemberists and the National wrote a song together, the tune feels like a modern waltz with a superb chorus to enjoy.
Mark has pointed out Jason Molina and Mark Mulcahy (two of my favourite artists) as some of his favourites, the ability to carry a song through using the voice not just as a way to get the lyrics out but as an instrument itself that can set the mood for any song. Mark and guess vocalist Kim Deal convey this ability in his recent single “Twisted Arrow”. Powerful and impactful, the song seems to simmer along along with the occasional sudden spark, it draws you in.
I was trying to pinpoint who or what Mark reminds me of. The combination of the lyrics and voice full of character bring me back to Villagers and Conor O’Brien. Between him and Conor Oberst, I think there is room for one more talented songwriter in this genre.