Miko Marks & The Resurrectors, Feel Like Going Home, Redtone Records
“Miko Marks… has reemerged as a supple, charismatic roots artist” NPR
I confess to only having recently stumbled upon the music of Miko Marks. And I was completely blown away by her new album with her band, The Resurrectors, Feel Like Going Home, which is a glorious mix of gospel and blues.
Ms Marks hasn’t always been such an outstanding purveyor of this type of Americana. In the early years of this millennium, she was an out-and-out country singer, and released a couple of enjoyable enough country albums, all twangy telecasters and vibrating vocals (nothing wrong with either of these!). After a hiatus of around 13 years during which time she retired into family life, she popped up in 2021 with her band, releasing Our Country, which began to morph her country sound with an emerging gospel and blues feel to things. On Redtone Records, a non-profit label whose mission is to preserve and strengthen arts, culture and community, it features Justine Phipps’s Goodnight America, a hard hitting questioning of how well America lives up to its ideals, sensitively sung by Ms Marks against a beautifully picked acoustic guitar accompaniment. The New York Times suggested the album was carving out a new path in country music.
A year later, after Miko Marks being included in CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022, we get Feel Like Going Home, where you get the impression that Ms Marks really has found her home.
Her band is hugely talented – the multi-instrumentalist Steve Wyreman on guitars, bass, organ, lap steel, melodica, electric piano, and background vocals; Justin Phipps on acoustic guitar, dobro, harmonica, and percussion; Effie Zilch supplying background vocals; and Will Baldocchi on drums. The eleven songs are all originals, mostly penned by a combination of Phipps, Wyreman and Marks.
They are all strong songs, both lyrically and musically, with arrangements that make you want to listen to them again and again. Things kick off in the title track with a classic Americana line, “Hear that whistle blowing,” and Miko’s voice takes us off on the journey with her. It’s a journey we’re all already on, though – no matter where we are, we all can join in the chorus with the superb backing vocalists – “feel like going home.” We get a taste of Ms. Marks’ vocals here – controlled power, bluesy, with hint of a rasp here and there. We’re hooked.
One More Night unabashedly throws us into the world of the blues – the juke joints and the churches, Memphis, Muddy Waters, all name-checked in a rollicking country-tinged rocker. The church and the gospel are never too far away in this album – biblical phrases and words like peace of mind, anxiety, trouble, the good life, deliver me, lay your burdens down, jubilee, wilderness, hope all abound, doubtless reflecting Ms Marks’s grounding in the church in her native Flint, Michigan. She was a singer in her family band which performed during her teenage years in church conventions in various states.
Her grandmother’s family, however, Miko has said, “came out of the south, working in cotton fields, struggling, looking for hope up north as so many did during the great migration.” She refers to this in The Good Life, which she says is a song of thanksgiving for the determination and perseverance under pressure of her mother and grandmother “so that I could have a good life.”
Trouble is just a great modern blues song, driven by Baldocchi’s drums and Phipps’s harmonica. Marks’s blues vocals are given full rein here in a complaint about the state of affairs in America: “Tired of all the talkin’, When nothing seems to change.” That “old time religion” won’t hack it – as somebody said a long time ago, “faith without works is dead.”
Perhaps my favourite song is Lay Your Burdens, with its gospel cadences, chords and lyrics to the fore. I love the hope expressed here: “There’s hope in the midst of despair.” In the middle of all the “dark days when you walk alone,” and though “your heart be weary,” there are “healing waters” and “peace like a river will roll.” Gospel hope.
There’s hope, too, in the last song, Jubilee. The biblical year of Jubilee was a special year when the ancient Israelites forgave all debts, released slaves and returned property. “All will be forgiven,” sings Miko Marks, but “I guess we’ll have to see.” Still, hope prevails and the song goes out with extended refrains, of “the promise of the future…all will be forgiven,” accompanied by the gospel backing singers, some tasteful guitar work and bluesy piano.
The promise of the future – Miko Marks.