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Tom Mank and Sera Smolen – We still know how to love

maart 27th, 2020 at 11:33


thoughtful involvement


On their eighth album singer-guitarist Tom Mank and cellist Sera Smolen put nine songs, which are musically and lyrically directly linked to the songs on predecessors like ‘Unlock the sky’, ‘Swimming in the dark’ and ‘Paper kisses’.

Again the duo invited musicians such as percussionist Manuel Quintana, guitarist Rich DePaolo, singers Kimbley Claeys and Ellen Shae plus harmonica player Gait Klein Kromhof for accents in Mank’s melodically rich, folky songs, which also have jazzy and classical influences due to Smolen’s defining accompaniment and solos.

While the Belgian Claeys and the Dutch Shae complement the songs, Americans Quintana and DePaolo and Dutchman Klein Kromhof create welcome extra contrasts.

Mank’s restrainedly sung lyrics also contain them, although they start from anecdotes. In ‘1966’ for instance he doubts the conclusions of the Warren Commission regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy at the very last minute after singing about melancholic memories, while DePaolo soloes sharply.

How decisive Kennedy’s death was for Mank, is also evident in the moody ‘Our November day’, in which he sings about what would be that last normal day before the assassination.

Three of the other songs once again demonstrate Mank’s fascination with the soldiers in wars they neither caused nor wanted: he pictures the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 between the Scots and the English just as vividly as he does feverishly partying Paris after World War I or the Dutch who thought they should help English pilots flee in World War II, the latter in lyrics co-written by Shae.

Mank and Smolen have rightly found an audience in Europe with their poetic songs. Now the US has yet to allow itself to be conquered.

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