Danny Marks : A Friend in the Blues

Cover, Setp 14, 2012

Submitted by Don Graham


 Danny Marks, as his new CD says, has “a friend in the blues “ or more accurately perhaps, “the blues” has a friend in  Danny Marks.


Blues music is probably one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted types of modern music. At least from where I listen. There’s the Delta blues, acoustic, bottle neck type, the rockin’ Chicago style electric blues type, the slick, orchestrated blues to name a few. Sometimes blues is thought of a twelve bar, 1,4, 5 progressions and repetitive guitar riffs of tales of love and misfortune with the opposite gender and financial worries.
Fortunately Danny Marks transcends all these stereotypes, giving the blues a fresh and colourful sound and texture.


A fixture on the Toronto blues scene, Danny’s musical career goes back to the hip Toronto sixties, where he was as a founding member of Capitol Record's group, Edward Bear.  “It really wasn’t my kind of music though. It was a lot more pop than I wanted to be. I was always drawn to the honesty of the blues. My dad always played music in the house growing up, Cab Calloway and such, but my older brother got me into the great Jimmy Reed.”


Danny has recorded his fourth album, “A Friend in the Blues”  with Alec Frasier, who co-produced the project as well as playing bass and adding vocals, Al Cross is on drums, Jonathon Goldsmith on  piano and B3, Sherrie Marshall  vocals and Wayne Mills on sax.
This collection is a great look into the life of a Toronto icon and entertainer/guitar master who has and does play all types of music. The record opens with  “Caretaker”, a well written, slow blues tune that uses the analogy of a man’s life as a building; that he is the caretaker of and although it’s empty and about to be torn down, he will persevere.


“Blues For Lonnie Johnson” is Marks’ homage to the blues legend whom  he met in Yorkville when he was a 19 year old  kid. “ He had a light around him when I saw him, an aura. It was magical.” Marks believes this was a sign of things to come for him and the blues music he loves so well.


“Blues Party Tonight” rocks and is Danny Marks boogie blues at its best. “Uncle John” is Danny’s sweet tribute to the blues great Mississippi John Hurt and showcases Marks’ acoustic blues picking masterfully. Excellent track. “Back To The Blues" is autobiographical in that it highlights the different types of music Marks performs today but something always draws him back to the blues. His musical love is the blues.  He is a recipient of the Toronto Blues Society's Blues with a Feeling Award for lifetime achievement in music and broadcast.  “Two Brothers” is a haunting story of love and a family sung with heart and soul. The reggae flavoured good timey title track “ A Friend in the Blues “ is an infectious “ditty” well played, arranged and sung.


The moody “The Other Side” is haunting and airy with interesting guitar sounds and textures. The classic gospel flavoured “Lonesome Valley” is a toe tapping, head bobbing, spiritual country arrangement, believable and heartfelt. It also shows Marks’ versatility, both vocally and instrumentally. “Blues of the Future”  is a riff laden tune with an interesting and thought provoking lyric.


“Mixed Up Girl” with it’s slide guitar and Delta vocal is a good old time blues tune that deserves a second listen. The set ends with the wistful “Maybe Tomorrow”, again sung with the heart and soul of a true “bluesman.”


Danny Marks is a fixture in the Toronto music scene. Audiences love him and fellow musicians love and respect him as well. He has stayed true to himself and his music and the sense of contentment is obvious in his songs and his satisfied and infectious smile.


His future is looking bright as, in addition to his weekly radio show, Bluz.FM on Jazz.FM 91 on Saturday nights from 8 P.M. til midnight, he has secured a deal with HiFi to do a television series, Cities in Blue. The show is a music travelogue series which will be seen on Hi Fi TV during the new year & beyond. Danny Marks and company will travel to the land where blues was born. During season one, they'll examine the present & future of the Blues in NYC, New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, Piedmont, Kansas City, Mississippi & Houston!


For bluesman Danny Marks, life is good and he’ll always have a friend in the blues.