Imagine driving down a less-traveled road in a vintage car, windows down, no particular destination or deadline or agenda to worry about. You see the details that you’d been too distracted to notice before. You see the leaves, the neat rows of corn, the way the trees far in the background move more slowly than the ones in front. You might even take enough of a mental deep breath to reflect on a bittersweet memory or two. That’s the vibe you get from Over on Paint Street, a relaxed collaboration between Mark Thatcher and Jeff McDonald. Thatcher, a southern Ohio native whose Goosetown Astonishers play some of the most captivating Dixieland music in the Midwest, is also a gifted solo performer. McDonald’s decades-long solo career has put him on stages with some of the biggest names in folk and country music. Having played together off and on over the last 10 years, Thacker and McDonald finally took their act into the studio and emerged with this accomplished disc of 17 originals and covers. Their chemistry is readily evident, with interweaving guitar lines that never threaten to step on either artist’s vocal.
“Two Lane” is an easygoing folk-blues shuffle with a hint of Willie Nelson and a healthy dose of acoustic hooks. The bucolic title track benefits from its brushed drums, mandolin drizzle, and small town reminiscences. Elsewhere, though, all is not idyllic. However pleasant and pastoral this album appears on the surface, Over on Paint Street isn’t lacking in emotional depth. When the line “How could you just get onboard that plane and fly away from a man who held you in his arms just yesterday?” pops out of “The Airplane Song,” its straightforward emotion resonates more within its pleasant musical surroundings than it would against a minor-key dirge.
Thacker and McDonald trade verses on John Hartford’s “Natural To Be Gone” which balances bluegrass-y banjo and mandolin with undeniable 60s pop underpinnings. “Anything for Love” and “Hard Road” showcase shimmering, soulful country, while the jaunty, sweet “Annie May Loves You” has the power to melt even a hardened cynic.
Recorded at Sweetwater Productions in Fort Wayne and at Thacker’s Nashville studio, Over on Paint Street boasts polished production that’s never slick — it complements the songs perfectly. The duo’s easy delivery and knack for seamlessly bridging stylistic gaps make Over on Paint Street an enjoyable, compelling and yes, relaxing listen. A release party for the CD will take place on, November 18 at Come2Go in Fort Wayne. Thacker and McDonald will showcase their songs with a full-band lineup.
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