It's appropriate that singer/songwriter Mark Erelli takes a different tack with the aptly named "Blindsided," an album exploring the inner sanctums of the soul and the conflicts that inevitably shake one's perceptions of those relationships to which they're bound. It centers on the dynamic that binds faith and family, conscience and commitment.
Granted, that sounds like heady stuff, and certainly like nothing that would contribute the hooks and happenstance associated with a radio-ready set of songs. And yet, that's precisely what the album offers, from the cascading chorus of "Her Town Now" and the resilient refrain of the title track, to the Bo Diddley beat of "Can't Stand Myself" and bright effusive echoes of "A Little Kindness" and "The Western Veil." It's a sound geared toward immediate accessibility, and while Erelli may be towing for compassion found well below the surface, there's not a single track here that doesn't sound like it's made for smooth sailing. "Come on out and tell me what you're saying," Erelli pleads on "Lost in Translation,"one of the most tender ballads. "Don't let this love get lost in translation."
Indeed, that's the dichotomy that's filtered throughout the album - catchy, compelling songs that bear lyrics and meanings fixated on brooding and rumination. "I'm worried about our prognosis, you don't even notice, we're barely holding on to this love," he sings on the otherwise effusive "Stranger's Eyes." It's as if he's intent on making his point with the least provocation possible, while still conveying both his inner dread and hope for making a convincing case regardless.
As a result, "Blindsided' succeeds on several levels, the visceral as well as the circumspect. Erelli's always been a brilliant songsmith, but here he finds a dynamic that melds the cerebral with the celebratory. "Don't you ever doubt my love," he urges his partner as the album reaches its conclusion. Given this spectacular set of songs, one would certainly be prone to shatter any second thoughts.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tenn. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His book - Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.