Appreciating a recording such as this is easy. From the first track to the last, we’re treated to honest and basic and good music. With the exception of track ten, titled “Evening,” a mildly, rambunctious Louvin-style mandolin/guitar/vocal duet looking at the joys of the gathering night, nothing here approaches a driving, flat-out attack, but there is also nothing here that doesn’t have a wonderful groove either.
Mark Struhsacker comes from Vermont, sings and plays guitar. As a lead player his work is clean and brightly-toned, his lines falling somewhere between legato and hitting strongly on-the-beat. Melody-driven with a bit extra might best describe his approach. He also favors and presents very well a good bit of crosspicking. His singing is smooth and on the higher end of the baritone range. This is his solo debut.
For it he has programmed a 12-song set of tunes in a variety of settings, slow to medium fast. Five of them are originals, all of them grouped consecutively in the middle. All five have a good understanding of tradition and sound much older than they are. The slightly fast 3/4 time guitar-backed duet with Lesley Grant, “Your Actions Speak Louder Than Words,” stands beside the bluegrass band treatment of “Sad & Blue,” and the slow, traditional country of “Blind Eye” as the best of his originals.
Bookending those five are a nice cover of Reno & Smiley’s “Little Mountain Road,” a fine tune that should be heard more. That’s followed by the sentimental “Light In The Window,” another fine tune that should get more recognition. That’s followed in turn by Struhsmaker soloing his way solidly through the instrumental medley “Cricket On A Hearth”/“Tom & Jerry,” and by Cindy Walker’s tragic and pleading “Leona,” the latter of which, along with “Little Mountain Road” are my two favorites on this all-around enjoyable album. (Mark Struhsacker, P.O. Box 94, Morrisville, VT 05661, www.wdevradiorangers.com.)BW