He woke to the sound of the rain on the roof; a kind of tin drum samba tapping out a truth. He woke to the finger-snap splashes on the asphalt beneath. Summer, of a sudden, was over – and all in the space of a sleep. The sheets snagged at his feet in the tropical heat. An envelope, stamped – and properly dressed, so it seemed, in his own hand ( …Miss Delaney? Scratches his head), stood, unsent, propped up against most of a bottle of Guaro. He stared into the fan, stirring nothing, above the bed. He tried to remember just where it was that he had slept. And, then, he tried to forget. The thunderheads rumbled somewhere out over the North Pacific rim. He rolled over and fell, once again, into the sweetest of dreams.
Heartbreak Hotel, Paradise Avenue, Quepos, Costa Rica – ‘everybody knows where business gets done!’ – declares the brochure!
He sat, later, in the hotel bar & talked it all through with a new friend & listened to an Englishman picking at a guitar beneath the rain.
I came across Mark William Gullick‘s album, Paradise Avenue, through a recommendation. I can’t remember who mentioned it &, honestly, that scrap of paper with a web address directing me toward it probably waited in my notebook for some months. But I’m glad to have looked it up. And, thanks to whoever it was that pointed me in that direction!
There is little information here to tell anyone about the identity of Gullick. A pleasing, well composed/unposed black & white photograph shows a moustachioed man sat at a well-stocked bar. He is tuning a guitar with a well-practiced ear leaned toward it (This, though, is only a guess – but the look on his face suggests it is so). There is a woman at his side, just out of sight. She is hidden beyond the frosty glass of a door, but she is given away by a handbag laid out on the jump. One of her legs dangles in the frame. Behind him (he looks, I see now, something like Ian Kilmister. Hmmm?) bottles & glasses. A barmaid, her back to him, busies herself with something. A fan, a bell, a face in a mirror at the back of the bar reveals the photographer.
There is the name.
There is a pop-up of the tracklist. It suggests one dollar for either each track or the album in its entirety.
This is all there is to show and, maybe, it says a lot. Being the only information for the listener to hang on to, it tells, as the album unfolds, a story. It’s a great photo. It’s a great album.
Paradise Avenue is understated & well measured. Ten tracks of literate, lo-fi Samba: a heartbreak, slow dance, storytelling album. It is ‘home’ recorded, and all for the better for it; allowing an uncluttered, worn-in feel – one guitar, some organic percussion (a shaker, finger taps & clicks, some found sound), a single voice (occasionally backing itself). That’s it. The writing is a joy. It would make a cool novel.
Gullick has an easy turn of phrase & some lovely, delicate twists to his lyrics (Never the bride/never the less) without ever coming across as forced or false. The feel, to these ears, is Central American in sound & yet both English/North American in its vocal delivery. At times he comes over all Costello. At others he is Jason Isbell. There is definitely a trans Atlantic cross-over vibe here. Speaking of which – remember that film, Dead Calm (Neill, Kidman, Zane)? It’s a late 80s love story – thriller about a psycho on a luxury yacht. Well, Paradise Avenue is nothing like that – but, there is a scene where Billy Zane’s murderous character tries to woo Kidman with a tape of his own album. He dances barefoot on the deck, in & out of the rigging & round & round the cassette player. “Ah, low production garage music”, he coos. Paradise Avenue has a similar feel.
Paradise Avenue by Mark William Gullick can be found at the above address. Look it up.