Mark Vennis and Different Place
Uncharted Water, Faded Glory and Other Stories
(Gravel Track Records)
Different Place are a rock band from Petersfield, Hampshire influenced by Johnny Cash and the Clash and fronted by Mark Vennis. Here Chris Hearn reviews their latest album.
This here is a decent roots rock album. The instrumentation, the structure of the songs, the sounds, the lyrics are all things I like. Here is what I hate to write: I donât always love Mark Vennisâ voice. There are times when it works well, and times whenâ¦it doesnât. ‘Far Horizon’, a song about soldiers and the Afghan war, is a case where the voice doesnât sit well with me. It can be a little harsh, cold and unforgiving.
Now, he is obviously a terribly talented man who has crafted some excellent songs here. He has a distinct voice, but one that doesnât always work. He reminds me of Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Hynes who is also a great songwriter. His songs are good. But, his voice gets on my nerves at times. Itâs very hard to write this about Mark because we are talking about a SINGER/songwriter. To slam his singing is to take away half of what he does. And the thing is these really are good songs and he isnât an all-out horrible singer.
The first song on the album, ‘Portsdown Hill’ is a great song; well written, well played, just a good sound and here Markâs voice does agrees with me. I know Iâm trying to soften my criticism a bit. Itâs because Mark Vennis has one of those voices you could love OR hate. Itâs unique, rough and raw. It might not be to everyoneâs liking, but neither is Bob Dylan or Neil Youngâs voices.
I do like ‘Broken Hill’ which sounds very Tragically Hip if Lou Reed was their lead singer. ‘This River Is Going to Carry Me Home’, rocks pretty decently, with a Neil Young feel. Good blues rock song with some excellent guitar work. ‘A Different Place’ is a good song. I like that one. Again, a good roots rock song, reminding me of Canadian singer/songwriter Jimmy Rankin here.
Of course, Mark Vennis isnât alone on this album. He has Different Place with him, although the line-up changed up quite dramatically while recording. Dave Sweetenham on bass was a constant. However, Jesse Hunnisett on guitars and vocals and Matt Parkinson on drums both departed. Jesseâs brother Dan filled in bringing a harmonica along with him, and Ian Roberts took over the drums. And there you have the complete Mark Vennis and Different Place lineup!
Mark Vennis does all of the song writing and again I must stress that he does an excellent job of it. In reference to his writing, the ever handy PR release from Gravel Track lays it out well:
âThe songs tell stories of growing up near Portsmouth and dealing with adult choices….what happened to all your mates at school, how they dealt with falling in love, having families, getting jobs, joining the forces, of doing the right thing, dealing with violence, being kicked when your down, hoping to move on, dreaming of escaping from small town England and a love of music are the raw materials and emotions of these songs.â
So, essentially, these are country and roots rock songs, just the same as in America, mirroring songs by John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen. I like that. These are the type of songs I like: They are songs about me and you, us, our society and our lives. I believe we can all relate, whether you are in Portsmouth, UK or my hometown of Thunder Bay, Canada. Okay, so the voice requires a bit of getting used to for some of usâ¦or at least me. Normally, I do like rougher, rawer voices so I donât know what my problem is here. But all together, this is good music worth checking out.
Words by Chris Hearn. More writing by Chris on Louder Than War can be found here.