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CD REVIEW: Mark Dougherty - In Dreams
By Chip Withrow - 01/21/2007 - 02:28 PM EST

Artist: Mark Dougherty
Album: In Dreams
CD Review: I’ve been carrying this CD around for a few weeks, playing it in those too-few quiet moments before my students arrive, and again in the evening as we clean up before our daughter’s bedtime. This evocative music has started echoing in my head even when I’m not listening to it.

Mark Dougherty’s music is melancholy and spooky – in fact, In Dreams would be better with a few more upbeat numbers mixed in. But for fans of stark, wistful acoustic music (myself included), this album is worth a listen.

My attraction to the guitar playing was immediate. “Funhouse” has a blend of understated acoustic picking and minimalist electric lead. Throughout the disc, guitars blend effectively with washes of synth-like effects.

On “It’s Beautiful,” Dougherty’s vocals poignantly wrap themselves a gem of a lyric, a tale of a girl’s dreams. I like his voice in this higher register.

“I Refuse” is pretty, but by the time it came along, I found myself hoping all the songs wouldn’t sound so sad. But then came “Make It Last,” which has nice lilt, a catchy chorus, and some sweet acoustic, almost mandolin-like, picking.

“Ocean Song” would be poignant without lyrics – Dougherty’s wordless vocalizing and the reverb-heavy arpeggioed guitar would suffice. And “In the Morning” is a great closer – one guitar, country/gospel-ish, inspirational lyrics (“Today I’ll see my world in all its beauty”).

In this CD’s accompanying notes, Dougherty is compared to Grant Lee Phillips, and I can certainly hear that. But I hear other not so obvious similarities as well. “In Moments, Tonight” is intriguing – I think of a mix between Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” and U2’s “Running to Stand Still.” “Into the Sands” again has that U2 vibe – it's almost anthemic.

I stated earlier that this disc is worth a listen; actually, it might take several to appreciate the nuances that differentiate one track from another. It’s also worth noting that if you take my advice and check it out, In Dreams is available on Lost Cat Records, a digital-only label.

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