From the shimmering opening notes of his first solo recording, many listeners will get a familiar feeling hearing Mark Thackway’s music. One of Toronto’s premiere guitarists, Thackway is best known within Canada’s jam band community for leading two of its pioneering groups of the 1980s and ‘90s, The Other One and Days Of You.
Now, after several years of tending to other aspects of his life, Thackway has returned to writing original songs that display his impressive storytelling ability along with his guitar skills, but this time in an acoustic setting. The initial results are contained on the eponymous Mark Thackway, six songs recorded live off the floor with Thackway accompanied only by his longtime collaborator Steve Himel on upright bass. Out today on all digital platforms, the EP offers a true feast for the ears, especially for fans of Bruce Cockburn and Jerry Garcia’s acoustic work.
“Steve and I got together during Covid lockdowns and threw as many ideas out there on the premise that ‘no’ wasn’t part of our vocabulary,” Thackway says. “We found muses at every turn. Some of the songs we wrote had a connection to Canadian history and some just came out of real life happenstance. For this EP, I tried to pick the best performances, especially songs that best showcased my vocals.”
Indeed, each song on Mark Thackway stands on its own, from the celebratory lead off track “Into The Light,” to the closing outlaw ballad “Owens Valley Gold.” In between, Thackway gives us a seagoing allegory in the form of “All Hands,” a modern love song with echoes of Mississippi John Hurt in “Caeleigh,” and a rousing sing-along in “Me Oh My.” It was all captured beautifully by engineer Kevin Ker and lovingly mastered by Brad Sarno.
“I’m fond of all of these and I play them all the time, but ‘Caeleigh’ is definitely one of my faves,” Thackway says. “A friend posted a picture of himself with his daughter when she was two years old with a comment, ‘the mountains have her now.’ When I read that I thought, there’s a song.”
As for his overall musical evolution, Thackway has become committed to improving himself in all creative aspects, and believes he’s playing better now than he ever has. Performing solo, as well as following the work of more current artists, has played the biggest role.
“My biggest musical inspiration has always been Jerry Garcia, but I also listen to a lot of Americana—Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, the Milk Carton Kids, Hayes Carll. I don’t think I can say any one thing inspired this project. It was more like, it’s about time we got on with it. For the first time in my life as a musician, I’m playing solo a lot and loving it. There is nowhere to hide and you have to come up with new ways to create something interesting.”
It’s clear from this first collection of material that Mark Thackway has done just that, with much more set to come.
MARK THACKWAY LIVE:
Nov 17 (Fri) :: Keswick ON :: Kings Tavern
Nov 18 (Sat) :: Toronto ON :: The Gull [Mark T Band]
Nov 19 (Sun 2pm-6pm) :: Newmarket ON :: Old Flame Brewing Co.
Nov 23 (Thurs) :: Toronto ON :: The Gull
Nov 24 (Fri) :: Chatham ON :: Sons Of Kent Brewing Co.
Nov 25 (Sat 4pm-7pm) :: Palgrave ON :: Caledon Hills Brewing Co.
Nov 26 (Sun 3pm-5pm) :: Uxbridge ON :: The Second Wedge Brewing Co.
Nov 29 (Wed) :: Toronto ON :: Noonan's Pub
Nov 30 (Thurs) :: Barrie ON :: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
Dec 1 (Fri) Oakville ON :: Moonshine Cafe
Dec 2 (Sat 7pm-10pm) :: Ridgeway ON :: Brimstone Brewing Co.
Dec 3 (Sun 6pm-9pm) :: Barrie ON :: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
Dec 8 (Fri 7pm-10pm) :: Hamilton ON :: Clifford Brewing Co. [Mark T Band]
Dec 9 (Sat) :: Toronto ON :: 3030 Club [Ray Robertson book launch]
Dec 10 (Sun 1pm-5pm) :: Port Perry ON :: Old Flame Brewing Co.
Dec 14 (Thurs) :: Toronto ON :: The Gull
Dec 15 (Fri) :: Keswick ON :: Kings Tavern
Dec 16 (Sat 2pm-5pm) Inglewood ON :: Badlands Brewing Co.
Dec 17 (Sun 2pm-6pm) :: Newmarket ON :: Old Flame Brewing Co.
Dec 22 (Fri) :: Ajax ON :: Drums N Flats [Mark T Band / *Very Jerry Xmas]
Dec 29 (Fri) :: Peterborough ON :: Jethro's
Dec 30 (Sat 5pm-8pm) :: Barrie ON :: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery