"Not your average blues/folk singer...very passionate and spiritual." raves Musician's Exchange. If you're into early Dylan or Arlo Guthrie, you'll love Silent Bear. Mark rocks on harmonica, picks a mean guitar, and writes hard-hitting songs. Kahlil's stunningly sensitive percussion- congas, shakers, cymbals, bells-wrap a myriad of colors and ethnicities around Mark's songs. And the ultra-transparent recording is so vividly three-dimensional, it's almost spooky.
1. Bear Foot Stomp -Listen to Sample
2. When The Clown Began To Sing
3. Lady Of The Lake
4. Kerouac's Child
5. Seven Arrows
6. Dusty Day -Listen to Sample
7. Circle Around
8. Roll On -Listen to Full Song
10. River Drum Child
11. Shaman's Whisper
Mark is Silent Bear, a name he coined when he was six, and it has stuck. And it fits. He is a big man — not un-bear like. He is silent; except when he is playing his spiritual and intense blues stories. His songs have the feel of a western, a journey, an odyssey. And with his debut album River Drum Child, we get a glimpse into the philosophy and essence that is Silent Bear. This title track was born by a river in a nice stretch of land in Lyons, Colorado, where Mark began his exploration into the mystics of Indian lore at one of their sweat lodges.
A particularly poignant song Lady of the Lake, is a ballad, a dirge and we are enthralled. I asked Mark if this was a history of unrequited love, or past passion and he told me of the gut reaction he had to this song instantly — how it came to him all of one piece and was his take on the medieval, mystical aspects of love. If it was personal, he wasn't saying, but the song is aching and beautiful. Kerouac's Child is raw, cutting into our souls. The bongos in this song, played by Kahlil Kwame Bell, are amazing — going off on their own tangent — weaving in and out but also independent of the song.
Mark began playing the guitar at 15, after giving up the trombone because, he said, "the guitar was a good instrument to sing along to and good to write for." It is apparent in the moving sagas and rocking rhythms of this album that he has found a stable marriage for his unique vocal style and powerful playing. He's also found a great partnership in Kahlil, the percussionist extraordinaire, who makes up the other half of Silent Bear's duo.
This debut album of Mark's is Kahlil's first full-length album as well so it was extremely exciting for both. In the first place, it was a live recording transferred to 2-track and so the energy was full and flowing. Mark conveyed how honored he was to work with Larry Willis, a great jazz pianist who's played with the likes of Miles Davis, and Cannonball Adderly, and who produced this album with an energy and enthusiasm that shows on the recording. He told the duo that he wanted them to be just that, but then saw opportunities where he could add some "color" with a piano, upright bass and background vocals, and it worked. The combined sweetness of Esther Williams' and Nick Smith's voices really add a new dimension to Seven Arrows and others on this album. And Mark described what was so positive about live recording in that the energy was so high, and they were allowed a more spontaneous, complete performance feel. This is a tradition in jazz recording that Mapleshade strictly adheres to. In an age where some studios utilize a 45-track system and no real instruments, these guys are renegades, anachronistic, and wonderful.
Roll On, one of his favorite live jams has the bongos emphasizing the beat as he's "thanking the lord for the beautiful day." In Kahlilimba, the sound is very African. Strange noises and sounds penetrate us — like falling rain almost; beautiful and soulful with caressing vocals and guitar. -Martin Dewulf
Silent Bear is Mark Silent Bear on vocals, guitar, medicine drum and he writes the rootsy, bluesy, jazzy songs on this really interesting and most surprisingly pleasant CD. Kahlil Kwame Bell is excellent on congas, bongos, talking drum, udoo and sangbe drums, kalimba, cymbals, shabers and more. The sound effects really bring the songs alive on River Drum Child. This CD is a must have for roots/Americana fans. It has a jam session/front porch feel to it, yet it is expertly produced and recorded by Mapleshade Studios.
Silent Bear uses his guitar and gravely voice as a rhythm instrument. Kahlil Kwame Bell the percussionist showcases his master talent in all tracks. His sound effects add a mysterious ethereal quality to each track.
What I liked most about this album is it's diversity. Some songs are jazzy and bluesy, then worldly with an Eastern feel, then right back home to Louisiana. It's a great album to play when you're just hanging out alone or with friends. Each time you listen you appreciate something new that you may not have noticed before. It's very relaxing and almost meditative.
Look for Silent Bear performing in the NYC, Long Island area. -Liz Smith