Smartest Man in the Room

Guitarist/vocalist/lyricist and all-around wise guy (see CD title) Paul Mark’s ninth release is, to quote the man, “a roots-rock dynamite stick lobbed into today’s music-biz garbage culture cocktail party.” Couldn’t have said it better myself! The 13 numbers include four instrumentals and a raucous cover of Dylan’s “Don’t Ya Tell Henry;” with the rest of them coming from Mark’s prolific imagination and suffused with his biting wit. The title track lets us know right off the bat with whom we’re dealing: “The men step back but the women all swoon/ When in walks the smartest man in the room.” His core band—Dan Schnapp, organ, James Strain, bass, and Paul Vezelis, drums—is right there with him at every twist and turn whether it be swamp rock ("The Creature Walks Among Us"), the blues ("One More Coat of Paint” described as a “send-off to a foreclosed home—and a girl") or “Can’t Remember Nothing,” an ode to lapsed memory with Mark’s old-timey piano enhancing his moody lyrics that deal with encountering an old flame ("So tonight let’s slip away to an old time and place/ For you a reunion but for me it’s a blind date"). More therapeutic than an hour spent with a shrink! The cover art’s a trip, too.