Burning Love Mark A Humphrey & Friends featuring Bhikram Ghosh on Tabla

Burning Love

Mark A Humphrey & Friends
featuring Bhikram Ghosh on Tabla

FG1001-CD, $11.95 + Shipping (& Taxes in California) 



Burning Love may be best described as Indo/Oklahoma fusion. Mark A. Humphrey & Friends present both original material and totally re-imagine modern Rock/Country classics like I Walk the Line.

Liner Notes

                        Burning Love  

    This album  grew out of  some unfinished business with its opening song. The dialogue between American and Indian folk music which became Calcutta to California (FGE 001) began  in 1994 while  I was visiting Hindustani slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya’s Calcutta home.  He and his brother Subhashish, a fine singer and tabla player, entertained me with some Indian folk songs.  One reminded me of “Darlin’ Corey,” so I sang them what I then recalled of this mountain blues.  We shared a mutual elation at discovering distant musical `cousins.’  This casual exchange was the catalyst for what became Calcutta to California.  But when time came to record in `95, “Darlin’ Corey” was still floating on the periphery of my memory, fragmented.  A year later, I was more sure of both the lyrics and of  where  I wanted to go with “Darlin’ Corey,”  but their  tour schedules allowed  neither Debashish nor tabla player Subhankar Banerjee time to record.  Luckily, an opportunity arose to work with another brilliant young Calcuttan, Bikram Ghosh, who has accompanied Ravi Shankar and who is most frequently heard with the santoor master Tarun Bhattacharya.   Having one of the world’s best percussionists at hand for a day, I seized the opportunity to get whatever I had ready onto tape. With my friend Chris Wallace on bass, we cut the basic tracks (lead vocals, guitar, bass, tabla) for ten songs on October 8, 1996. In lieu of delivering a Nashville-style ten-song album, I’ve included other material recorded over the past 17 years, making this an odd anthology, a non-career retrospective of a sporadically musical amateur.

   However, folk music and amateurs have always been boon companions; it’s only recently (and, at that, rarely) that `professional folk singer’ has been other than an oxymoron. Folk song,  perhaps more than most music, has always been an informal, ongoing  dialogue among musicians, audiences, and cultures.  African-Americans and Anglo-Americans both came here laden with  richly varied modal tunes.  When blues first surfaced a century ago, it offered a perfect format around which some of those tunes might meld.   To my ears, there’s no more sublime manifestation of that `modal meld’ than the mountain blues epitomized by the likes of Dock Boggs and the regrettably under-recorded B.F. Shelton. (Having now recorded “Darlin’ Corey” and “Pretty Polly,” I’ve covered half of Shelton’s complete output!)  Mountain blues, of course, is only one of the idiom’s sundry forms. Blues has taken myriad shapes throughout this century; perhaps its final popular and vital one was funk.  “Darlin’ Corey `96” attempts to suggest the modal meld’s long journey, including  the path which led me to my encounter with Indian music.  Lyrically, I’ve resurrected some of the verses Shelton recorded in 1927 which highlight the song’s desperate characters, hillbilly contrabandistas  from the era of Prohibition.

    I’m generally happier approaching  a`standard’ from an angle which may sound skewed but which is clearly implied by the song  itself (though not necessarily by the familiar  version) than I am trying to create original  songs.   However, I went on an uncharacteristic songwriting spree between 1990 and `92. (Unemployment helped.) About a third of what I then wrote I’ve continued to play and have recorded here.

     Aside from “Darlin’ Corey,” the other song I most wanted to record  with Bikram was  “The House Carpenter.”  My version is based on the one Annie Watson,  Doc’s mother, recorded on The Watson Family (Smithsonian/ Folkways SF 40012). The drama of this  “House Carpenter” is stripped to essentials: betrayal, seduction, child abandonment, drowning.  Older variants   (published versions first appeared in 17th century London) have more verses and are decidedly more Gothic, with the banks of Hell and a cloven hoof making appearances before the denouement.  The only hint here that the sailor might be something other than he appears to be (some versions are called “The Daemon Lover”) is his urgency: in folklore, denizens of the spirit world are always in a hurry in the land of the living.  The instrumental section following the sixth verse is based on a bhajan  (devotional song) called “Tumaku Chalathu” by  the Indian composer Tulasidas.

   The title track, “Burning Love,”  is a tribute to two legendary griots  whose spirits, it’s said,  still  stalk the Delta, Charley Patton and Elvis Presley.

    I could say something about each of these songs, but  my hope is that explanation isn’t needed.

      The only thing left to say is that this album is a work in progress, a collection of markers along one  musical journey.  To make my point, I conclude with two recordings from 1979.  I had then recently moved to California from Oklahoma.  My long -standing relationship with the `frequency glide’ phenomenon is illustrated by “Pan American Man,” a song of Cliff Carlisle’s.  Some 16 years after recording this, I had the privilege, thanks to Gene Earle, of playing the National guitar Carlisle used to make his 1937 recording of this song.  A further irony: in `96, I was asked by Chris Strachwitz to write liner notes for a reissue of Carlisle’s recordings, Cliff Carlisle: Blues Yodeler & Steel Guitar Wizard (Arhoolie/Folklyric CD 7039),  w hich includes “Pan American Man.” I  learned the song from one of Chris’s `70s anthologies, Steel Guitar Classics.

   The album ends as it began with a performance of “Darlin’ Corey,” this one by a kid from Oklahoma with delusions of becoming the next Roscoe Holcomb, an aspiration for which he found the demand to be nil. As for what’s become of him since, I refer you back to the opening track. 

-Mark A. Humphrey


1.  Darlin’ Corey  `96      (PD)                                 6:25

2. Sunblind          (M.A. Humphrey)                           2:34

3. Heartthrob        (M.A. Humphrey)                         2:58

4.  I Walk the Line  (J. Cash)                                    4:26

5. Air Space (M.A. Humphrey)                                  1:39

6. Burning Love     (D. Linde)                                   3:40

7. Ring of Fire  (J. Carter-M. Kilgore)                    2:59

8.  Fade to Blue     (M.A. Humphrey)                        2:52

9. Amber Room (M.A. Humphrey)                             4:27

10. Art Lesson    (M.A. Humphrey)                            3:39

11. You Are My Sunshine   (J. Davis-C. Mitchell)     4:25

12. Strictly Private  (M.A. Humphrey)                       4:51

13. Julie’s Dream    (M.A. Humphrey-M. Troeger)   3:43

14. Wreck on the Highway   (D. Dixon)                      4:46

15.  The House Carpenter    (PD)                              5:35

16. Marissa Noel    (M.A. Humphrey)                         1:45

17. Streets of Laredo    (PD)                                      2:37

18.Pan American Man    (C. Carlisle)                         3:50

19. Darlin’ Corey  `79    (PD)                                    2:28