Anderson Fair presents Mark Germino. With Dustin Welch.
Over the years, somewhere upon the cool wide-ranging North American landscape of thought-provoking music, Mark Germino has slowly and patiently carved for himself a fertile measure of song acreage that both notates his often aborted full musical arrival and solidifies his creative endurance as a writer and singer of his own work.
Arriving in Nashville, Tennessee from Level Cross, North Carolina with just poems in the summer of 1974, Germino quietly began turning those same poems into songs over the next few years, alongside such writers as Steve Earle, David Olney, Cadillac Holmes, Beth Neilson Chapman, John Allingham, Rob Stanley, Don Schlitz, Kevin Welch and noted poet/singer-songwriter, Tom House. By 1980 Mark had landed his first music publishing agreement with famed Combine Music Group (Kris Kristofferson, Tony Joe White. Chris Gantry, Lee Clayton) and was well on his way to filing his highly-regarded lyrics into the annals of Nashville's alternative music scene. Along the way there was the occasional mainstream cover of a Mark Germino song, but moreover, such daringly-notable artist as; Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Burrito Deluxe, Vince Gill, Kevin Welch, Beth Neilson Chapman, Seldom Scene, Kathy Mattea, and Claire Lynch began to cherry pick from Germino's ever-growing catalogue of ambitious rock-tinged compositions, each including one or more on their studio projects.
Over fifty of Germino's songs have been recorded by other artists. By late 1985, Germino was instantly thrust into the American recording scene by way of what Mark's long-time friend Steve Earle refers to as Nashville's 'Great Credibility Scare'. It seemed within weeks of each other Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Nancy Griffith, Vince Gill, Mark Germino and Joel Sonnier were all handed major label recording contracts based exclusively on the sheer power of their unique artistry. Nashville has never again been so bold. Only Gill forged out a 'country' career. Everyone else washed ashore as; folk, rock, alternative, or, (in Germino and Earle's case) a combination of all three.
In early 1986, Germino promptly took his songs and his newfound fortuity and embarked for Capel, England where he hooked up with ex-Yardbird bandsman, Paul Samwell-Smith, to record 'London Moon & Barnyard Remedies', his first public offering. 1987 brought the world-wide release of 'Caught In The Act Of Being Ourselves', the title cut accompanied by masterful vocal work from Jennifer Warnes ('Up Where We Belong, Famous Blue Rain Coat'). The project also included a song entitled, 'Rex Bob Lowenstein', which became BBC Radio 1 'Song Of The Week', the first folk song in many years to penetrate Radio 1 and then claim one of the UK's traditionally pop charting positions.
In no time, Mark had a sizeable radio hit on his hands throughout much of Europe that immediately defined him as an artist unafraid to bite the hand that feeds him if the cause is just. Typically unconcerned with any career fallout, Germino allowed the song, 'Rex Bob Lowenstein', to attack the very system and the very institutions he was trying to be a part of. 'Rex Bob Lowenstein' cast a brilliant light on the dangers of allowing 'subscribed programming' to enter the control rooms of American radio. It was a clairvoyant, early warning of Clear Channel and things to come that would dilute and eventually eliminate a large concluding component of the creative music process, that being, the experimental mainstream radio forum.
In 1990 Germino cut ties with his original studio musicians and began to formulate elements that would bring about his next recording. Those elements came in a ready-made package. Suddenly, it was Mark Germino & The Sluggers, with long time friends, Tim Krekel (guitar), Willis Bailey (Drums) and Tom Comet (Bass). Soon after, Michael Webb (keyboards) joined the group, filling out a roots-rock lineup that would spawn the R.S. Field produced, critically acclaimed 'Radartown', many agreeing one of the finest rock albums to exit the 90's. In 1996, Germino hit the studio again with most of the Sluggers, drummer- percussionist, Mac McInerney and tasteful slide-guitar virtuoso Mac Gayden, (Blonde On Blonde).
This time they shed the electric guitars and recorded the Americana chart topper 'Rank & File' in eight days, his first acoustic CD and quite possibly his best known. And then, he dropped out of sight for six years----------------- It took a well-known disc-jockey from Houston, Texas to hunt him down. Larry Winters of KPTF-FM in Houston recalls; "Hell, I thought he was dead! I'd been spinning his tunes for several years down here and I could tell his audience was growing by the 'call ins' and I didn't even know what the boy looked like!" What only a few knew, in or outside of Nashville, was that Mark Germino had temporarily terminated his first love of music to write three unrelated novels of Literary Fiction.
As he recalls, "It consumed me and it required a surplus of regimented work ethic which is the polar opposite of how I go about writing songs. But, I could sense that if I picked up the guitar even once, the lure of music would ambush me and I would never complete my goal. I had to write these books, so, painfully, music had to take a back seat for a while...at least until Tom Yeager and Larry Winters called me." Working the road suffered as well, yet he gave up the prospect of that with no apologies. "I had not burned out on it because there had been so little of it anyway. And, I wasn't really disillusioned about the rigors of the music business but I was kinda mystified by my reluctance to assertively hit the road, especially since I enjoy it so much. Another factor, was I had just gotten married and roughly nine months later our son was born and I wanted to be home with him like I had been for my daughter, and to be honest, I was nowhere near being tormented by that yearning..."
The overruling factor in the development of the Mark Germino Story is of course, the songs. More often than not, his songs originate organically, usually based on whatever subject he chooses to examine. His tuneful creations embody everything that's important to him within the human condition including what might be considered the mundane. Germino's work offers the listener; reflection (minus regret), sadness (minus melancholy), humor (minus typical comic relief), storytelling (minus anything resembling a fable) and lastly, loss and victory (minus defeatism or celebration). Often, it's like his songs are in a frame; an enclosed case that exhibits his music to only those who care enough to break the glass for observation and study. At times his songs appear to be electrically-charged and semi-cerebral, imbruing the listener with a lyrical language of powerful and unique phrasing that is not commonly used in traditional song form, yet still feels hauntingly familiar within the listener's soul.
It could be said that Germino's uncanny ability to inhabit a subject or a feeling from a normally uncultivated point of view is his forte, and his willingness to apply any lessons learned and convey those lessons without preaching to others is his brilliance. Whether he chooses a 'Rock' or 'Folk' setting to showcase his songs is irrelevant because neither musical setting strengthens or weakens his lyrics. The lyrics are that strong. Germino will take on any issue. Period. His subject-targets range from the cultureless war components that make up the slippery fabric of al-Qaida in 'Holy War' to the tumultuous public afterlife of Elvis Presley in 'Fire in The Land Of Grace''.
They exist from the subtleties of a life-changing birth in 'Farrowhagen Plays Odetta,' to the blazing trickster ironies of 'Felix Tucker's Biggest Lie,' a song that pays stylistic tribute to both William Blake & O'Henry. *The very ghost of O'Henry, (also from Germino's 'piedmont' section of North Carolina), runs rampantly and quietly through much of his work. Other tunes resonate equally as thunderous in subject matter tackled; 'Black Angel Cure' deals with the rushing advent of teenage suicide in the eighties. 'Albamarle Sound' takes a strong look at rape, survival and recovery. 'Finest Brand Of Southern Degeneracy' weighs in on mind control, a perfect example of Germino's ability to utilize humor until it exhausts itself into poignancy, and 'Married Man', a rapid firing of lyrical bullets that turns the tables on gender accountability in relationships, written from a point of view never canvased before in popular music ------
In 2006 Mark Germino & The Grenade Angels released 'Atomic Candlestick', a fourteen song project produced by Germino and noted Nashville rock studio whiz Michael Webb. Another acoustic CD is planned for a late 2009 release. And now, finally, kids grown, first novels written, he'll hit the road once more, satisfying all those that are already aware of him and initiating those who are not------------- G.W. Davenoppa