Sunday, July 30, 2006

Mark Geary, Ghosts

Washington Post, Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page N17


Mark Geary

Former Dubliner Mark Geary makes his home in that part of Ireland known as New York -- a place where brogues are spoken, pubs are frequented and the Irish Echo reports the soccer scores from an office on East 47th Street. So-called stereotypes amount to practice here. So it's not out of line to use another timeworn term -- indomitable spirit -- to characterize what keeps Geary's second album, "Ghosts," from falling into the cliche trap suggested by its title.

"Ghosts" builds its success on diverse rhythms, sparkling instrumentation and compelling vocals. Geary has one of those whispery voices that evokes Nick Drake comparisons, but here it's as if someone's put a gun to his head and demanded, "Let it out!" Fellow low-talker and Signature Sounds label mate Josh Ritter guests on the title track, but his music is evoked more by "Mid-Nite Sun," a broody little country number that reveals "Your baby's got a wandering eye." The best of the quieter songs is "You're the Only Girl," which, with quavering vocals and electric guitar that manages to sound like an ambling banjo, sounds very lonely: "You're the only girl for me in this town."

It's the more extroverted songs that use Geary's gifts to their best advantage. On the exuberant "Fanfare," Geary almost brings himself to a sneer -- "How come you said it'd be easy / Leaving me here on my own?" -- but his voice breaks on a high note on the delicate bridge. "A Prayer for St. Rita," which warns, "Don't fall in love with ghosts," brims with lively spirit -- not just the expected jangly strings, but also some funky synthesizer buzzes and warbles. "I'm afraid of ghosts," sings Geary, but he couldn't sound more confident.

-- Pamela Murray Winters

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