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Mark Heard
Live at Cornerstone 92

Midnight Acoustic Encore Stage

OK, so I missed the first four tunes from Pierce Pettis, "Mama said there'd be days like this."

Everything a body would want in a modern folkie you can get plenty of in Pettis: a down-home friendliness, a memorably idio-syncratic voice, a guitar style that could shine on its own but doesn't detract from lyrical imagery that astutely illumines the human condition's most comforting and problematic facets. Yeah, he's on a bigger label than his current producer (Heard), with more clout to the yupster masses who would be blessed by exposure to the Pettis poetry and tunefulness. If only I could recall song titles...

Easier to recall, maybe because she is a she, is the solemnly lovely presence of Pam Dwinell-Miner. For everyone who hasn't seen her but appreciates the vocal contributions she has made to many West Coast Christian hepsters' releases, suffice it to say that she is a blonde possessed of the same kind of ethereal, angel-on-earth beauty as Sam Phillips in her more somber moments (of which there are plenty, right?). She accompanied both Pettis and Heard, and of course she deserves a solo deal for her haunting tone and presence (Ed note: She did record an album for Myrrh that was discarded by her record company when she became divorced from her first marriage. If Sandi Patti can continue to make records, maybe that fine effort will get it's long overdue release, - BQN)

But ah, Mark Heard. One of the most commercially-underrated voices of intelligent belief in the ccm market. Here, with just his guitar and the assistance of Dwinell-Miner and Pettis, he shone in the intimacy of Cornerstone's acoustic tent. Those in attendance at Heard's 1990 Mainstage performance with small band must remember Heard's distinct uneasiness with a throng so large and close.

Here, in a more personable setting, he was able to quip about his songs and his life. If the audience wasn't exactly a close friend, at least we were an acquaintance he might have wanted to know better. The songs were largely culled from his last three albums: Dry Bones Dance, Second Hand and Satellite Sky. In those sets Heard has arguably lifted his art to its apex.

Certainly his trademark wry wit and melancholy were all over the place, with "Mercy of the Flame" a most tender assurance, the questioning "Why, why, why" of Satellite Sky, and the asides about America getting good at not giving a damn in "Long Way Down" and the inevitable dehumanizing of progress in "Big Wheels Roll" pitting Heard as a sharp political commentator.

Then it was over. It could have gone on until sun-up, and most of us would have been still enraptured by threesome's sagacity and poetic/musical invention.

Jamie Lee Rake ( Syndicate, Volume 7, Issue 4, 1992 )
Copyright © 1992 Syndicate Magazine