By LV Nash
Carolyn Mark never lets me down. It might be her puns (obvious and otherwise) or it might be her voice or it might be her choice of boyfriends and new best friends and old best friends. But album after album, she improves like a fine wine; depth, bouquet, flavour, body.
Her label, Mint Records, is proclaiming “THIS IS THE ONE” in the publicity notes for The Queen of Vancouver Island. But they got that wrong. SHE is the one. It’s like the Nobel Prize: The latest piece created might tip the judges, but they include the whole package in the evaluation.
And Carolyn knows this, just listen to “The Cereal is the Prize”: “Because if you got what you wanted well you’d have to pick something new.” (Which, incidentally, is my new favourite retort to my kids’ requests for nothing important.)
The Queen of Vancouver Island is a metaphor. And it’s a big boat. Carolyn Mark carries her crew of musicians as much as they carry her. Some outstanding talent is part of this show: Paul Rigby, Paul Pigat, Jon Wood (who also recorded and mixed some tracks), Jack Pine, Juli Steemson, and Kelly Haigh. Among others. She knows how to choose her friends, that’s for sure.
Carolyn’s had her heartbreaks but she doesn’t wallow and manages to always make her audience feel like they are commiserating, or included in the party, and it quite often jumps one to the other before you have a chance to shed a tear. There’s something about a repeated line, “Everyone is so young,” that has the power to move you from feeling old, to young, and back again. (This track was on my basement stereo, loud. I went upstairs and could hear the chorus which started to sound like “everyone is soiled” and then turned into “everyone is so old.” Seriously! Try it yourself! And I was only drinking coffee!)
Her ragtime conclusion, We Weren’t Always Old Whores, is quintessential Mark: cheerfully and tongue-in- cheekedly self-referential, nicely punctuated with her very own gargle.
Have you seen her perform live? She’s got some party tricks you ought not miss..