Mark Stoffel recalls the uncertainty of “Curious Times"

Article Contributed by Mountain Home … | Published on Saturday, May 27, 2023

When Mark Stoffel released his all-instrumental Coffee & Cake in 2020, Bluegrass Unlimited called him “a road-seasoned bluegrass mandolinist in peak form,” while Country Standard Time pronounced the album “charming,” and several of its distinctive numbers popped up on airplay charts. Now the German-born southern Illinois resident is back with his first new music, an aptly named “Curious Times” that distills what he calls the “somber vibe of uncertainty” pervading the spring of 2020 into an elegant composition.

“The tune came to me one morning during the early days of COVID lockdown in 2020,” Stoffel recalls. “The somber vibe of uncertainty that many of us felt that year has definitely found its way into the melody of the tune. Hence, the title: ‘Curious Times’! I finally got a chance to record it a couple years later at Crossroads Studios in Arden, North Carolina, and I just love how all the players really captured the mood of that tune.”

“Curious Times” features some of Stoffel’s favorite collaborators: labelmate and former fellow Night Driver Gina Furtado (banjo), Irish fiddler Niall Murphy (whom both Stoffel and Furtado first met on a 2018 Chris Jones & the Night Drivers tour of the island), guitarist Chris Luquette (Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen), longtime collaborator Ross Sermons (bass) and legendary studio drummer Tony Creasman.  Neatly bookended by two contrasting snippets of one of its melodic themes — the differences in time signatures and tones forming a sort of musical pun on the title’s “Times” — the tune is characteristic of Stoffel’s approach, with three sections each containing a distinctive melody and rhythm, yet all related to one another. And in a characteristically sophisticated move, though mandolin, banjo and fiddle each take a turn at leading through the form, the return of the mandolin signals a more elaborate arrangement that builds in energy until a closing passage leads to the final twist.
“Somber, but upbeat — Bluegrass with a dash of Celtic,” Stoffel says with a smile. “I couldn’t be happier about how it turned out. Hope you like it!”

"Curious Times" is streaming in Dolby Atmos spatial audio on Apple Music, TIDAL and Amazon Music. Dolby Atmos is a sound experience you can feel all around you. Familiar from its “surround sound” application in thousands of movie theaters” Dolby Atmos reveals “depth, clarity and details like never before."

Listen to "Curious Times" HERE.