Not only does Charlie Mars have the perfect name for an episode of Behind the Music, but the past decade or two of his life provide the story for it. The notches on his timeline include a Methodist childhood, a stint in rehab, and a period of sought-after solitude in Sweden, all the while making sweet, soulful Mississippi music. If you don’t remember any of his songs from his self-titled, major-label debut in 2004 (whose tracks received some airplay), you might recognize him as Weeds leading lady Mary Louise-Parker’s arm candy, as he is in fact Nancy Botwin’s real-life beau.
It would seem that with such a bio would bring ensuing lyrical content, but only one of Blackberry Light’s songs stands out in that way. On “How I Roll”, Mars croons, “Oh no, look in the mirror/ It’s the 5-0/ I shouldn’t have smoked so much weed/ I shouldn’t have done so much blow.” After getting that out of his system, Mars focuses for much of the record on universal boy-meets-girl woes. Lyrics such as, “I know you want me/ But you don’t want me to know/ I know you need me/ But you’re afraid to show me” (taken from “Let the Meter Run”) and “I only went to the party ‘cause I thought you might be there” (“Pacific Oceans”) make the album relatable. These embody the easy vibes of Mars’ music, with a maraca or a batch of “ooh”-ing backup singers as accompaniment. The title track and “Back of the Room” pick the record up with soulful guitars circa John Mayer’s Continum, while the piano-driven “Sometimes The Sky” winds Mars down into a ballad worthy of a slow dance or nighttime drive.
Blackberry Lights isn’t anything strikingly different from the rest of Mars’ catalog, but there’s also not much to dislike about it. It slips the musician further into the genre occupied by singer/guitarists like Ryan Adams, Eric Hutchinson, and Griffin House, and fans of such sounds should certainly add this Mississippian to their collection.
Essential Tracks: “Back of the Room”, “Sometimes the Sky”