Mark Sinnis 'It’s Been a Long Cold Hard Lonely Winter' - 9th Recordings

Sinnis is a  New York musician who started out as a member of punk band Apostates and who has now turned his direction towards a blend of dark country and roots rock; something he has termed “cemetery and western”. He has a sonorous voice that is well suited to the term and indeed the title track, and the song Six Feet From Eternit,y aren’t exactly the cheerful stuff of country radio. Yet it would be wrong to label the music dour and there is a lot of variation over the album’s sixteen tracks.

With co-producer George Grant they have brought a broad range of players into the studio to help them realise these songs, which are a mix of originals with a trio of covers that fit the overall mood. The covers are Hank Williams Sr’s The Angel of Death, Jerry Irby’s Driving Nails in My Coffin and th George Jones classic He Stopped Loving Her Today. Brave choices indeed, considering that there are already versions considered definitive. But Sinnis handles them well and he also assimilates other classic sounds into songs like Sunday Morning Train, with it’s Cash rhythm and Ring of Fire brass.

At this point you might legitimately ask; is there anything new here? Given that the Americana genre is based on music of the ages, then Sinnis is doing his own take on that, making music that, taken on it’s own terms is entertaining and engrossing.

That is, if you want to be reminded that ‘death is always near’ and accept the premise that many of these songs have a dark heart, a heart that finds solace in walking around midnight graveyards. Gothic country is something that has been touched on before but Sinnis has taken the darkness as his abiding light. In pure musical terms there is plenty to admire, with a wide range of instruments adding to the musical textures including fiddle, steel, banjo, trumpet and keyboards sitting behind Sinis’ acoustic guitar and voice.

It’s Been a Long Cold Hard Lonely Winter is the latest in a series of releases that continue this theme, so this is clearly the path that Sinnis is following. Possibly it is a thorny and overgrown path, but one that will always find those in tune with that spirit. There may be an air of ‘Washington Irving sings country death songs’ to it, but that in itself is not without its attractions.

While it may often be a long cold hard lonely winter we have to endure, here is some music that, like any good ghost story, has you captivated by it’s telling of the darker side of life. And death.