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Mark Pickerel And His Praying Hands
Snake In The Radio
Bloodshot Records
www.markpickerel.com


Well, another piece of the mystery resolves itself… Another lost member of The Screaming Trees surfaces, this time in a rather unexpected way. Mark Pickerel was the drummer for the seminal 90's rock band, as well as putting in chops on the occasional Nirvana record and many other little side things back then, in what now seems the glory days. Now it seems Pickerel has cut his long hair, thrown some brill cream in and ramped up a very nice looking pompadour… to accompany his new haircut, he's made the move to producing a strange kind of Americana music, filled with traces of country, blues, rockabilly, indie pop, and even a few lingering traces of hard rock. It makes for a nice sound.

Snake In The Radio is an easy-to-listen-to record; the songs are easy on the ears, the tempos mostly mild, and the lyrical content fascinating in its turn. I had never really considered Mark Pickerel a songwriter, thinking him to be simply one of the finest drummers of all time. Boy, was I wrong. "Forest Fire" starts the album off with a very Nick Cave/ Leonard Cohen style drag over a swinging drumbeat and sweet steel guitars. The dark-pop vibe kicks in full blast on "Come Home Blues" while Pickerel croons "I miss the black cat that we tattooed on your back/ but you are the feline that I really must have back/ And I know that idolatry, that really is a sin/ I put you on a pedestal, higher than you should have been". The background singers bop along almost like a swinging jazz number, but the unmistakable darkness of songsters like Chris Connelly and Michael J. Sheehy is definitely in evidence. Not to be stuck in the crooning regimen for too long, "A Town Too Fast For Your Blues" rocks it up a notch, throwing in ample amounts of 60's psychedelia between the vocal harmonies and the electric piano and the starkly brilliant guitar parts and the quick stutter drumming. "Ask The Wind, Ask The Dust" has an Ennio Morricone feel, drenched in the sound of the high deserts, all twangy guitars and eerie steel over an oddly electronic drumbeat.

Throughout Snake In The Radio Pickerel shows that he is still a drummer of substantial power, but also flexes his muscle on the occasional guitar, and shows he can sing along with the best of the dark-pop crowd. "Don't Look Back" is full of the Cohen vibe, with a fantastic country guitar solo and haunting background chorus. "You'll Be Mine" throttles things up again, full of reverb-drenched rockabilly guitars and backbeat drumming, sounding like a B-horror film version of the Stray Cats. "Sin Tax Dance" brings out the Neil Diamond influence, while "Snake In The Radio" falls back to an almost ambient electronic swing. "Town Without The Blues" wraps the album on a pensive note, with a death-song 50's feel, great guitar licks, and a tentatively falsetto-vocal performance by Pickerel that is weirdly offset by the chorus of background singers… and a cool guitar solo. The song has some cool instrumental and tempo change ups that make for a fascinating listen, drawing the listener's interest back in for another turn on the merry-go-round that is Snake On The Radio.


So listen up, rock kids… Mark Pickerel is back on the scene, and he's playing somewhere… maybe in your town. Go see him live, buy his record, do whatever you can to support someone who makes music this beautiful and solid… and also to show him how much you thank him for that whole grunge thing he helped to invent… No Mark Pickerel, no Nirvana. Know Mark Pickerel, know Nirvana.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Forest Fire
2. Come Home Blues
3. A Town Too Fast For Your Blues
4. I'll Wait
5. Graffiti Girl
6. Ask The Wind, Ask The Dust
7. Don't Look Back
8. You'll Be Mine
9. Sin Tax Dance
10. Snake In The Radio
11. Town Without The Blues


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