Album Review: Miko Marks and the Resurrectors, Feel Like Going Home

 

Miko Marks and the Resurrectors

Feel Like Going Home

 

There has been a lot of conversation over the years, especially at Country Universe, on what was lost when women disappeared from country radio.  For those of us who fell in love with the genre during the nineties boom, it felt like there were distinctive and powerful female artists everywhere, and when they came to dominate commercially as well as artistically, it seemed there would be no going back to the days of radio being 90% male.  The fans had spoken.

We couldn’t have been more wrong about that.   But in the conversation over what we have lost over time, we usually leave out what we never had in the first place.  All of those female artists were white, and there weren’t any Black artists of any gender even being promoted by a major label, let alone having success on one.  This can become a self-perpetuating cycle, especially for Black women: If their country music isn’t widely heard, and their innovations on the genre aren’t recognized, it makes it that much harder for the next generation of artists to break through.  “This isn’t country” becomes the mantra, because the artists who came before them didn’t get a seat at the table.

There isn’t an artist out there right now doing more to correct the historical record than Miko Marks, who first surfaced in the mid-2000s, when we were all arguing over which one of the four young blonde women getting airplay was most deserving of the one spin an hour reserved for female artists.  Country Universe was already in operation at that time, and despite her releasing two excellent albums back then, we never heard them, let alone covered them, and she was quiet on the recording front for more than a decade after that.

Since resurfacing last year with two outstanding releases, Marks has rightfully claimed her place in the genre, using her platform to educate as well as entertain.  Feel Like Going Home continues to build out her legacy, and if it sounds to you like she’s going beyond what country music is supposed to sound like, you need to learn some more about what country music has historically been.

I love that she opened with the title track, which shares its name with an old Charlie Rich song and musically hearkens back to that vein of seventies country that borrowed heavily from southern gospel traditions.  It previews an album that feels like one long conversation with God, at turns finding peace in His creation (“River”) and leaning into Him for support (“Deliver Me.”)  On the Pentecostal rave up “Trouble,” for example, Marks calls for the powers that be to give her “good trouble,” embodying the formidable and ongoing connection between the southern church and the fight for civil rights.   Her connection to her ancestors gets even more personal on “The Good Life,” a poignant tribute to her mother and the better life that she envisioned for her family.

The album’s most reflective moments are among its most powerful.  “Peace of Mind” is deeply contemplative, struggling with a life that can bring pain and pleasure, but remains enshrouded in mystery.  “The Other Side” takes a journey to the “lonesome valley,” where the ferocity of nature collides with the human spirit.   “Lay Your Burdens Down” is a gorgeous eulogy for a departed loved one, as Marks celebrates their release from a life of struggle and uncertainty.

Throughout it all, Marks is in full control of her formidable vocal talent, grounded in authenticity as she sings of celestial wonders.  The arrangements and the lyrical themes complement each other perfectly, and the use of live instrumentation creates a timeless sound that is connected to the past while firmly engaged with the present.  This is the third essential release from Marks in under two years.  She’s making up for lost time and we’re all the beneficiaries of her redoubled efforts.

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