Varying in tone but constantly sporting just as much color as John Mark Thomas’ own vocal does, the guitar element in the singer/songwriter’s upcoming EP Coming Home is definitely the most communicative component of the record outside of the lyrics. On its own, the guitar part in “Can’t Give Up” might not do much to advance a theme of emotional kinship, but when placed under the command of Thomas we find it as powerful an agent of evocation as they come. There’s poetic value to almost every stitch of audio you’re going to hear in Coming Home, and although this can certainly be said of the past material this player has recorded, I actually think he seems to be turning a corner in this latest work.
Thomas’ lead vocal in “Give You the Stars,” the title cut in Coming Home and “The Spark Will Never Die” are probably some of the best, most confident and most expressive of any he’s ever put forth on a record, and it would surprise me a great deal if I were the only observer remarking as much. There’s so much swagger here, and while it never verges on the negative territories of arrogance or self-righteousness, I think it’s present enough in his performance to have a direct impact on how we’re to interpret the narratives here. He has a lot that he wants to get off of his chest in Coming Home, and his utilization of as many artistic avenues as he can fit into an otherwise minimalistic pop-folk release reflects that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Lyrically, almost everything here relates to a self-awareness that I can only wish to hear more of on the FM dial, with the fantastic “Sing (Mom’s Song),” “That Spark Will Never Die” and “Give You Stars” defining the bigger picture in Coming Home beautifully. Sometimes, in order to grow into a better artist, a singer/songwriter has to look as deep inward as they can muster themselves to do from inside the typically restrictive environment of the recording studio, and though I’m hesitant to say Thomas couldn’t get even deeper than he has in this instance, he’s undeniably getting personal for this record. I admire his willingness to take things to the next level just for the sake of his art, and his efforts absolutely make this EP the must-listen disc it truly is.
If you haven’t been listening to John Mark Thomas up until this point, I think you need to check out Coming Home on the day it drops this February. This time of year is often terribly underwhelming for audiophiles, but in the wake of a suffocating 2020, it would appear indie artists like this one didn’t stay away from the drawing board – and their concepts are turning into incredibly thoughtful music this late winter/early spring. Thomas is someone you need to be paying attention to right now, and Coming Home is verification of his ability to any who might have questioned him.
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