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The Queen of Vancouver Island

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Album Review

If one word could be used to sum up Carolyn Mark's seventh solo album, The Queen of Vancouver Island, it would be "clever." Which is both a good and a bad thing; Mark is an excellent singer and a distinctive songwriter, and she certainly knows how to make the most of her tunes and her instrument on this album. However, she has a sense of humor that's intelligent but never quite as smart as she thinks, and The Queen of Vancouver Island's Achilles' Heel is hearing Mark indulge her wit far more than is prudent. On "Not Talk," Mark points out a joke in one of her songs by laying in a laugh track after the punch line (which plays even worse than it sounds), and after telling us "Now, in the verse I'll just say some s**t, leading up to the chorus, because everybody wants to sing along" in the title tune. Mark breaks the fourth wall again eight songs later on "The Cereal Is the Prize," singing "Maybe tomorrow, I'll sit down and write the third verse." And while "Old Whores" is an effective meditation on age and regret, using a similar metaphor on the next tune, "You're Not a Whore (If No One's Paying)" seems at once lazy and belabored. The worst part is Mark is clearly talented enough to know better; the best songs here, like "Best Friend," "Mellie's Book," and "Nobody's Perfect" demonstrate how good a tunesmith she can be when she hits her marks, and her vocals are wonderful throughout, with her cover of "Flaming Star" comparing favorably to Elvis Presley's stellar original. Mark also called upon a number of friends and colleagues for production and accompaniment, and they truly delivered the goods, giving the album a rich, eclectic sound that sways from pop to rock to country with easy assurance and joy. The Queen of Vancouver Island is a good album that could have been great if someone had given Carolyn Mark's songs a bit of editing before she went into the studio; it's still worth hearing, but one would imagine she'd have learned the difference between "clever" and "wise" by now.


Born: Sicamous, British Columbia, Canad

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Canadian alt-country singer/songwriter Carolyn Mark was born and raised in Sicamous, British Columbia, growing up on her family's dairy farm. Taught piano by her father, himself an accomplished violinist, in 1991 she surfaced as a member of the Victoria, B.C.-based all-girl rock combo the Vinaigrettes, touring Canada and the western U.S. relentlessly over the next seven years. After the group's 1998 dissolution, Mark formed the Corn Sisters, a duo with fellow insurgent country diva Neko Case -- a...
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The Queen of Vancouver Island, Carolyn Mark
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