“Let me down easy, explain it from the start / We’ve got all night for you to break my heart,” Pickerel purrs, in a rich baritone that’s a perfect blend of confidence, longing, and vulnerability. Meanwhile, his band Praying Hands creates an atmosphere that’s sly, seductive, and just a little dangerous.” NPR
Make no mistake – Mark Pickerel is a dangerous character. For decades, he’s been palling around with unsavory sorts – a who’s who of ne’er-do-wells that includes Mark Lanegan, Neko Case, Kurt Cobain and Jeffrey Lee Pierce. To trust him (even just his voice) with your girlfriend would be a colossal error. For your girlfriend to trust him with her heart would be a tragedy. But as his latest album Tess proves from the first sly, seductive note, you’ll both prove powerless to resist the charms of this barroom-prowling troubadour. Tess hits stores September 17th on Candy Cross Records, Pickerel celebrates with performances at Bumbershoot Festival as well as radio giant KEXP and other performances in the Seattle area.
Like a wounded big cat licking its wounds while stalking new prey, Pickerel roams the treacherous terrain of romance like it’s the Wild West. “Tess” is tumbleweed noir – a dusky landscape littered with empty bottles and broken dreams, where bedrooms are ghost towns and love – while not exactly a battlefield – could easily land you in a jail cell. Pickerel sings “I try to reach out for something real, like a shot and a shiver and a stranger shall deliver a fraction of the love I used to give her,” on the haunting “I Study Horses,” a standout track from Tess that chronicles bittersweet regret and the memories of loss.
Recorded at Jupiter Studios under the expert care of Martin Feveyear (Brandi Carlile, Mark Lanegan), Tess has an incredible cast of musicians pulled from Pickerel’s arsenal of friends and collaborators. From guitarist Johnny Sangster (The Tripwires), Celloist Barb Hunter (The Gutter Twins, Twilight Singers, Visqueen), pedal steel guitarist Margrethe Bjorklund (Jack White, John Doe, Giant Sand) and bassist Eric Church (Mark Lanegan, The Cops) to Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan, Isobel Campbell), guitarist Ian Moore (Roky Erickson, Jason Mraz), drummer Mike Musburger (The Posies, The Supersuckers) to bassist Jim Sangster (The Young Fresh Fellows), Pickerel left no stone unturned when it came to finding the right talent to flesh out his evocative collection of songs. When complimented on how great his new record is, Pickerel answered, “Blame my band, they’re some of the best musicians in the world, kidnapped/stolen from some of the best BANDS in the universe!”
Of his last album, No Depression.com opined “If a coyote cut a record, it might sound a bit like Pickerel – lonesome and distant and wrought with earnest emotion.” This time around, that coyote is at the back door and he’s looking for love – in all the wrong places, of course. But scars add character and bad decisions make for good anecdotes and even better songs. Delivered with Pickerel’s wounded baritone in a cinematic and romantic musical setting, they also make a great mating call. Tess is an album full of last waltzes for last call – unpure, aldurated siren songs, if you will; a seductive invitation to the dark side.
“Don’t hide your dark side if you want our love to survive,” Pickerel croons on “The Throes of Love.” “Bring your demons out to dance, c’mon and take this chance.” It’s a dare, a gauntlet – and perhaps the most brutally clear-eyed assessment of risk-management as it pertains to infatuation you’re likely to swoon over. At recent shows, he notes (as a gleam of mischief briefly glows in those knowing eyes and flickers across that cherubic face) that songs like the aforementioned “Throes of Love”, “Burn the Shrine” and “Man Overboard” have reduced audience members to tears, setting some off on benders and lost weekends. He of course, is the perfect chauffeur through these lost highways, back alleys and old haunts – territory as fraught with emotional peril as it is with possibility.
Official music video for “Burn the Shrine” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHYiQrpFRls