Paul Schingle Reviews

Review of 'Let Love Go On’ by Mark Dvorak

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The world of recorded music has changed radically since the advent of the current century. With sites such as iTunes available to anyone with a device, musicians as a whole, and independent musicians in particular, find the selling of CDs to be a tough proposition just to break even. On the other hand, the way technology has evolved, hard working musicians can still find a way. The new release Let Love Go On by Mark Dvorak is an excellent example of a talented, yet independent musician working with technology to create a high quality product on a shoe string, without abandoning his creativity or original vision.

Dvorak is a multi-talented musician, singer, songwriter, teacher, literary writer and raconteur. Let Love Go On is his eighteenth recorded release. It’s hard to put a label on the album. It has previously released songs, but is not a compilation, as there is new material as well. It’s mostly a studio album, but there are two live tracks. A little over half of the pieces are original with the remainder being covers. But, Mark Dvorak has never really fit neatly into one particular mold anyway.

Writing reviews can be difficult, especially with such a wide range of material on the album. Let’s start with some of the previous material and see how things shake out. “Every Step of the Way” is the second song on the disc and is re-recorded here, previously released in 2005 on the disc of the same name. Mark has reworked it and it’s a little quicker and has more of a live-in-the-studio feel to it. I remember a time when Mark would frequently open his live shows with “The Glory of Love.” It was included on his 1998 release, The Streets of Old Chicago. The version on this disc is love and still excites the audience as much as it ever did. On the liner notes, Mark recounts that blues great Big Bill Broonzy played it on opening night at the Old School of Folk Music in December 1957. This version is a live take from The Blue Plate Special on radio station WDVX in Knoxville TN, recorded in June 2018.

“Old Friends” first appeared on Dvorak’s 2015 release, Back Home. Again, he’s reworked it, but the feeling of comfort and sitting “on the back porch at Granny’s” still rings true. Another song that bears mention is “In the Shadow of the Mountain.” While never previously released, this one is a song Mark would frequently play live. I recall hearing an interview with Mark on radio station WDCB in Chicago suburb Glen Ellyn IL in which Mark told the interviewer that he had cut out “In the Shadow of the Mountain” from his album Time Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me and his fellow Chicago musician Sue Demel, called him a knucklehead, for leaving it off the album.  It’s a pretty song with a dark side addressing the path of addiction and recovery. 

As stated before, there a a number of cover songs on the album as well. “Trying To Get the Balance Right” is a song by Irish songwriter Johnny Duhan. It speaks of the imperfection of friendships and relationships and how we all try to work out a balance. Dvorak’s is a beautiful rendition. “Parade of Fools” is a classic-sounding country song about falling for the wrong person and being just another in a long line of fools. This song was penned by Al Kniola, radio host of The Back Porch in South Bend IN. 

“If I Only Had a Match” has such a jazzy vibe to it, it only makes sense that Mark learned it from an old Al Jolson vinyl LP. “L-O-V-E / On the Street Where You Live” is a gorgeous instrumental which Mark recorded in one take, though he states it took him “150 other tries before I could get all the way through it.”

As stated in the beginning, this album has quite a few new and original songs as well. The opening, and title track, “Let Love Go On” is one of these. It is a pretty song but also speaks to Mark’s growth as a songwriter and poet. His lyrical choice is thoughtful and intelligent as always, but Dvorak seems to have taken another step in this regard. “This Train Ain’t Bound for Glory” is an obvious tribute to Woody Guthrie but with a slightly cynical edge, taking a look at today’s socioeconomic and political landscape. “Brand New Wings” may be the prettiest song Mark’s written since “Not War” (from 2005’s Every Step of the Way), but with a more optimistic bent. And, finally, “I Don’t Need It Anymore” is a fun song that reminds us that our worries and cares are really small potatoes in the end.

Before concluding, some words on the production of this album are in order. Revisiting the beginning of this review, I mentioned the need for independent musicians’ to work on a shoe string budget. Dvorak showed his many abilities in splendid fashion on the disc. Mark played all the instruments on the album. Historically, he has always sung and played acoustic guitar and banjo. While there is no banjo on the album, he has added mandolin, resonator guitar, and even drums to his repertoire. But there’s even more to this. Mark did all the engineering, mixing, mastering and production of the album. Except for one of the cover photos (which Dvorak credits to Blair Hull), this is essentially a one-man project from beginning to end. Sometimes a person has to do what he has to do.

For those familiar with Mark Dvorak’s work, it may come as no surprise that Let Love Go On is another warm and beautiful album from one of the true gems on the Midwest folk scene. But perhaps the biggest wonder of it all is his ability to take on all new aspects of the process of releasing a new CD. Perhaps, necessity truly is the mother of invention.

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Paul Schingle is a writer and blogger from Tucson AZ who reviews music, writing and culture. paulschingle@yahoo.com.

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