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Mark Lucas / Jack Nolan / Sofa Mecca | The Ghost of Lost Creek Road / Dreams of Flying / s/t (Laughing Outlaw)
These three discs are all on a label that describes itself as Australia's Premier Power Pop and Alt Country Label. Which is odd, because none of the three really falls into either category, and so it's only the one which almost does which really meets the CwaS' 'criteria for consideration'. Jack Nolan seems to take his inspiration from power-pop favourite Chris DeBurgh. Yes he's that light. And flat. The press release proclaims that his voice soars on the best tracks, and that he strikes the difficult balance between darkness and joy. They lie! Mark Lucas' disc could not be more different. The sleeve to Nolan's looks like it was knocked up by a small child with a little talent and two sheets of Letraset. 'The Ghost of Lost Creek Road' makes a better first impression with a much prettier sleeve. Lucas is a fair bit more country musically, but he seems to want to be Bob Dylan in storytelling mode, or maybe, in vocal delivery, Richard Thompson, rather than anyone more extravagantly hatted. The first couple of tracks try a little too hard to rock and please and sound self-consciously like the aforementioned Bob. But things soon relax into some very pleasant and trad twangy stuff with pedal steel, mandolin and dobro, and a strong flavour of Australia, lyrically and musically, and some fragrant dealings with city/country themes. You'll grin in a post-modern way if I mention the didgeridoo on a couple of tracks, but it works, trust me, especially on standout Walk in Beauty. The press release for this one mentions Guy Clark and Townes van Zandt, but this time they're on to something. Sweet. Sofa Mecca, as you might guess from their name, are something completely different. They've taken the influences of bands like Coldplay and Doves and made a CD of tasteful acoustic/electronic pop. There's a trendy but tasteful '80s flavour and sophistication too. Not alt.country, then, and not power pop; but pretty, and pretty good.
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002