Mark Karan : Walk Through the Fire

mark_karan_fire.jpgJourneyman musician Mark Karan has lived a storied life. Before settling down as the widely appreciated lead guitarist for Bob Weir’s Ratdog, Karan cut his teeth with artists including Jesse Colin Young, Dave Mason, Huey Lewis, and the late, great Delaney Bramlett. A passionate fan and skilled interpreter of roots music, Karan’s affinity for blues, gospel and soul comes beaming through his debut solo album Walk Through the Fire, an assortment of well-polished gems.

From his own work, Karan several stand-outs, including the radio-ready "Leave a Light On," the smoky "Time Will Tell" and the autobiographical title cut, inspired by his inward and outward journey through a recent bout with throat cancer. He also engages the work of others, like the shuffling, Cajun-tinged sing-along “Annie Don’t Lie” by Alex Call and the Susan Sheller-penned/Van Morrison-inspired standout "Memphis Radio," leading a crack outfit of veterans and session players (including drummers John Molo and Jimmy Sanchez, bassists "Hutch" Hutchinson and Bob Gross, keyboardists JT Thomas and Bill Payne and the sweet background crooning of Jackie La Branch and Gloria Jones) through a thoughtfully chosen blend of pleasing grooves. Bramlett’s gospel-inflected vocals and earthy dobro playing make a welcome appearance on a version of Robert Johnson’s "Love in Vain."

Walk through the Fire, which boasts tasteful and eclectic artwork/photography, goes out with three smoking covers – a soothing jazzy take of Randy Newman’s "I think It’s Gonna Rain," a reggae-tinged exploration of Joe Jackson’s "Fool’s in Love" and a jam-filled tear through the Grateful Dead’s swampy classic "Easy Wind."

Walk Through the Fire is out now on Quacktone Records.