Tender Mercy released his latest LP, War Within, today via Obsolete Staircases.
The album will be supported by a run of tour dates that starts tomorrow (below).
FRI 10/18 = Cincinnati/Northside Tavern
SAT 10/19 = Cleveland, OH/Sofar Cleveland
SUN 10/20 = Detroit, MI/Donovan’s Pub
TUE 10/22 = Chicago, IL/DC Torium
WED 10/23 = Milwaukee, WI/Tonic Tavern
THU 10/24 = Minneapolis, MN/Auk’s Roost
SAT 10/26 = Kansas City, MO/Bushranger
TUE 10/29 = Memphis, TN/Pagan Mom
WED 10/30 = Murfreesboro, TN/Media Rerun
Tender Mercy is but one man named Mark Kramer. And the sound is of one man as well. A lone voice, the fewest guitar notes possible, and a seemingly infinite trail of reverb. Kramer is a man who knows well that the fewest moves equal the grandest gestures. A lone smile from a stranger is sometimes all it takes to pull a person back from the edge. A small acknowledgement that ‘I see you, you are seen.’ Kramer’s music is that acknowledgement.
His songwriting here is like the aural equivalent of William Carlos William’s famous poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.” All these tunes seem both to be soft impressions of emotion and fully formed stories. This new smoke signal seems to be a full acknowledgement of living in the current global climate. Mark’s lyrics are as haiku like as his arrangements. Yet they can turn on a dime in tonality.
Opener “The Key” seemingly offers solace, solace when he asks ‘are you eating enough,’ but he follows the line with ‘you locked the door to keep us from harm’ and in this, the question is begged, is the person checking in helping or hurting? The line is often thin. Care of any kind can be uplifting but it can also be smothering. This lyrical ambiguity finds itself home in all of Mark’s songs. ‘These secrets only go one way/ No point in keeping it to yourself’ goes ‘Reveal.’ ‘I used to know what you were after/But now it’s all a riddle’ goes ‘in your shadow.’
Under certain lights, Mark can seem to embrace you, other times he can ask you to check yourself. To notice your own flaws which hinder you. Mark’s words are full of ‘I’s and ‘yous,’ making everything a conversation. Closing number ‘Problem’ sums everything up best when Kramer goes ‘I don’t know what your problem is but I know that for sure is it’s all yours.’ In the hands of a loud aggressive punk band, this would clearly be a finger pointing accusation, but in the hands of Kramer’s lullaby-scapes, one can’t help but wonder if the intent is more sincere. Even the most self aware of us can have trouble changing behavior, even when we are aware of it. Is Kramer pointing fingers, or offering his hand to help you? I suppose that depends on the listener, but I certainly know how the music makes me feel.