REVIEW - Mark Pontin Group - 'Kaleidoscope' (Album - Lunaria Records)
Welsh bluesman Mark Pontin returns with his third full length album, 'Kaleidoscope', following on from his debut 2013's 'Days Of Destiny' and 2015's 'Textures'; and this new release does much to consolidate his position as an acclaimed member of the UK blues scene. With his never less than accomplished guitar playing to the fore, and ably backed by a band full of great players, 'Kaleidoscope' is an assured blues album that fans of the genre should lap up in their droves, and will hopefully see Mark add a fair few new fans for his soulful take on blues music.
One thing 'Kaleidoscope' isn't is an album rammed with 'full-pelt boogie' or the heavier side of the blues with volume laden extended guitar solos and pounding bass and drums; what you do get is thirteen tracks that vary wildly in their mix of styles and atmosphere, at times veering towards soul and funk, some songs replete with strings and brass, others having a pleasing merging of Mark's versatile guitar tones from his vintage Strats and an array of keyboard sounds (Hammond, Wurlitzer, Moog, Rhodes) skilfully deployed by Owain Hughes.
That's not to say the album is completely devoid of rockin' tunes - the Robin Trower influenced 'Starmaker' is a slow barn-burner played with a power-trio complete with a vicious Hendrix style solo, and the punchy single 'Forever' fairly rolls along with strong vocals and dual guitars but there's much more to this album. 'Everything (Today)' and 'Everything' (Tomorrow)' have a Curtis Mayfield feel about them with their strings and brass backing, the band 'bring the funk' on 'This Will Never Be A Hit' and 'Freeway Fantasy', there's a short jazz-fusion instrumental ('Hotel Diablo'), a touch of psychedelia in 'Don't Stop', 'Hell's Kitchen' has a bossa-nova feel and picked guitar with scattershot vocal lines a la Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', and last but by no means least, there's the gorgeous ballad 'Roll With Me Easy' with it's fantastic strings intro (violins, viola and cello). The strings and brass on the album are used to fine effect, giving either a lush backing to the songs (the strings) or injecting the tunes with a punchy, vivacious feel (the brass). Closing track 'Phoenix' has a cinematic tune with expansive strings, a couple of fluid guitar solos from Mark and is a fine way to finish this excellent album.
Sometimes cool and restrained, other times funky and free, 'Kaleidoscope' is a tremendous album, eclectic, soulful and played flawlessly. If you like your blues with grooves, taste and a touch of class, then 'Kaleidoscope' will be for you. A fine album from a fine player with his fine band!
'Kaleidoscope' is out this Friday (26th November) and will be available on all the digital sites or from Mark's record label (Lunaria Records) at www.lunariarecords.com.