Mark Henes has spent years performing around Nashville’s music scene, cultivating a loyal following with his genre hopping, Americana influenced sound. Now he is finally ready to formally introduce himself to the world with the release of his debut album “Crystallized Reflections,” which features thirteen stellar tracks that touch on everything from country and soul to punk.
Lead single “Ghost Train” kicks things off. A haunted ode to lost love, the song takes its influence from the outlaw country of the seventies, with a hard edged sound held together by Henes’ booming baritone. Mark immediately starts to show his versatility as he switches gears on album highlight “I Pray, I Pray,” in which he is backed by a soulful horn section. The acoustic guitar driven “The Underground” channels Johnny Cash. “I am traveling to the north country,” he sings mournfully, as a string section sets the mood behind him.
There are many artists out there who can play multiple genres, but very few who can do it as convincingly as Henes. This is best exemplified by “Strip Me Down,” in which the young songwriter shows off a completely different side of his artistry. An energetic pop punk song that would sound right at home on the Warped Tour, it shows Mark at his most confrontational, with a hook that gets stuck in your head right away and stays there for weeks.
Across thirteen songs, Mark rarely repeats himself stylistically, but the entire album is held together by his commanding voice and thematic consistency. On “Arm Full Of Roses,” he slows things down again, with a comforting ballad that might have sounded at home on vintage FM radio in the sixties. The reverb heavy guitars and doo wop harmonies enhance the retro magic of the production, before giving way to chugging blues rock of “Death Was The Penalty,” in which Mark plays the role of convicted criminal as a wall of guitars provides the soundtrack for his getaway.
By the time Henes gets to album closer “Tennessee Hills,” with its old time fiddles and banjos, the listener gets the sense they’ve spent the past hour or so driving slowly across the middle of the country, exchanging stories and songs with a childhood friend. “Crystallized Reflections” is a truly one of a kind album from an artist who is just getting started on his musical journey.
“Crystallized Reflections” is available everywhere Oct 30, 2020