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Charlie Mars has been a journeyman artist with all the ups and downs that entails, from major label releases and high profile gigs opening for the likes of REM, KT Tunstall, Citizen Cope, Steve Earle, among others, from uncertainty to redemption. Now, with the extraordinary new Blackberry Light, the Mississippi-based troubadour builds upon the distinctive musical approach first mined on his 2009 breakthrough Like A Bird, Like A Plane, employing supple grooves and ambient Daniel Lanois-inspired production to enhance the elemental force of his classic songwriting influenced by the likes of Bob Marley, Bill Withers and Dire Straits. From the dreamlike, "Nothing But The Rain," to the shimmering "Picture of an Island," the album sees Mars delving deep within to offer insight and a path to self awareness and ultimately transcendence via a gracefully beatific distillation of folk, rock, and smooth acoustic soul.
"This music takes my mind to a place that allows me to see more clearly where I'm falling short," Mars says. "It takes my mind to a reflective place. It makes me sentimental about my past, my present, my future. It has a way of humanizing me and helping me shed some of the things that get in my way."
Currently residing in Oxford, Mississippi, Mars was at a professional standstill before Like A Bird, Like A Plane. With "no manager, no agent, no band and no money," he doggedly developed a sonic style uniquely his own, a sound informed less by traditional rock than by sinewy and soulful rhythms that seemed to bubble up from within his soul.
"We stumbled upon this percussive, atmospheric tone that, as far as I'm concerned, was different from anything else out there," Mars says. "I thought, 'This is my sound. This is what separates me from the things that I'm hearing elsewhere and I want to explore that further.'"
Mars kickstarted his second act by spending much of the next two years on the road; growing an increasingly fervent following while slowly compiling a sheaf of new songs.
Recording officially got underway in August 2011 at Austin's Texas Treefort Studios, with Mars once again accompanied by many of his cohorts, including producer Billy Harvey (Bob Schneider), keyboardist John Ginty (Santana, Citizen Cope), bassists George Reiff (Ian Moore, Steve Poltz) and Dave Monzie (Fiona Apple), and drummers J.J. Johnson (John Mayer, Tedeschi Trucks Band) and Dony Wynn (Robert Plant, Robert Palmer).
That stripped down framework comprises a stark and cinematic sound inspired in part by producer Daniel Lanois' famed collaborations with Bob Dylan, Ron Sexsmith, and Emmylou Harris. With its sparse instrumentation and focus on transcendent grooves and ambient space, the minimalist approach serves to add maximum intensity to Mars' already powerful songwriting.