By DAN MACINTOSH
Many songs from Pam Mark Hall’s album Mangle the Tango suggest the familiar saying, ‘everything old is new again’ because this 11-song set is in many ways a throwback to social/political singer-songwriter folk albums from the 1960s and ’70s.
The living two-thirds of Peter, Paul and Mary, Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow, each harmonize with Hall on separate songs, while Canadian folkster Bruce Cockburn (a musical hero of Hall) re-records his “All the Diamonds in the World” along with Hall.
Pam Mark Hall Songs
A few of Hall’s new songs also hearken back to that time when the answers were blowin’ in the wind. “Harriet Tubman” is biographical sketch of a beloved American abolitionist, while “The Very Last Day,” which is introduced by a snippet of Martin Luthor King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, pictures racial reconciliation taking place simultaneously with Judgment Day.
Hall’s Impressive Vocals
Over the years, Hall’s vocals have taken on an earthiness, which contrasts with vocal purity of her early recordings. This contrast is not as great as, say, the chasm between former and latter Joni Mitchell records, and nicely serves to give the singer’s voice more of an authoritative tone. This vocal evolution is best exemplified with the bluesy and harmonica-accented “Chop Wood, Carry Water.” It even fills title cut “Mangle the Tango” with a touch of – dare we say it? – sexiness.
While Hall’s social justice-related songs are exemplary, her more philosophical musings are even better. “Solitude” praises the simple pleasures of enjoying one’s own company, while the piano-backed “How Do You Know/Cobalt Blue” asks, “How do you know that you know what you know?” Certainty can be so elusive.
Pam Mark Hall’s artistic approach may a bit on the retro side, but it’s also an aim inspired by some of the most creative and meaningful artists of our time, which makes Mangle the Tango dance steps well worth retracing, again and again.