Lose Me in the Sand

Mark Growden

If his previous release, Saint Judas, was Mark Growden’s accordion album, his latest, Lose Me in the Sand, is his banjo album. As was the case on 2010’s excellent Saint Judas, this one was recorded live with a full band by one-time Tom Waits engineer Oz Fritz. Leaving behind the Biblical themes of its predecessor, the Bay Area singer/songwriter’s latest kicks through the dust of Americana for inspiration. Rehearsed and recorded in Tucson, Ariz., with a crew of the area’s ringers, the banjo dryly leads on most of the tunes—five covers (Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and a rousing, upbeat take on the folk standard “John Hardy,” to name a couple)—and five originals. For his own songs, Growden adds to those traditional American-folk themes of sex and death. There’s lusty sex on the sweaty album opener “You Ain’t Never Been Loved (The Way that I Love You)” as well as on the fittingly slower and longer “Takin’ My Time” (“Well I got a shovel gonna dig down deep/ Dig so low make the good Lord weep”). And all kinds of dying are found in a tired mountain town on “Killing Time” (“You can’t kill time with a shotgun/ But you can try”). Although the live-recording approach is good for the energy, this time, in places, it’s bad for clarity and dynamics. A small complaint for an otherwise great follow-up.