Artist: Marker Starling
Songs: Young Love [Janet Jackson cover] + Amsterdam [John Cale cover]
Recorded at Burdock Music Hall, January 14, 2017.
Quite delightful to see a sold-out room celebrating the release of a new Marker Starling album. The follow-up to Chris Cummings' Rosy Maze was recorded with some Euro-pals in Paris (including Stereolab's Lætitia Sadier), although longtime rhythm section Matt McLaren and Jay Anderson were still holding things down on this side of the Atlantic. I'm Willing might be an album of cover songs, but not only does it avoid obvious choices, it also contains some of Cummings' most emotionally nuanced performances (just check out the title track).
As the set went on, Cummings was surrounded by an increasing number of musicians (eventually the whole of openers Bunny would be on stage), and he ended the set by moving out from behind his wurlitzer to become a full-on frontman. There were a couple new songs from the next album, and they fit right in alongside the covers, and the whole thing reminded me of when I spoke with Cummings a couple years ago, and he was already thinking about the long game — getting better as a songwriter, sounding better and being more confident to take risks. Maybe it's no accident that the Marker Starling "look" has advanced to something more like the steady and confident presence of an august and respected admiral — the Mantler uniform of the sad tuxedo'd lounge singer just doesn't fit any more.