Mark Newman – When I Aim My Gun
New York City based guitarist, vocalist, songwriter , and multi-instrumentalist Mark Newman has supported some of the finest songwriting and performing talents who’ve worked over the last three decades , among them Elvis Costello and soul great Sam Moore, and the skill set that drew him to their attention is clearly apparent on his single “When I Aim My Gun”. Some may balk at his willingness to engage an issue like American gun violence, but anyone with ears will concede that Newman certainly makes great strides towards giving the song a musical presentation that anyone, regardless of political stripe, can get behind. The musicianship on this song is quite high without veering into histrionics or showboating and we’re in the hands, from the outset, of a very capable songwriter. This song comes off as a performance capable of connecting with a wide swath of the listening public as well as an intensely personal statement that anyone should commend Newman for having the courage to make.
The organ really makes this song musically. Don’t get me wrong, Mark Newman’s guitar work crackles with spirit, but the organ playing brings a rollicking quality to its instrumental break that lights things up in way the song doesn’t quite reach until that point. Newman responds with a guitar solo following its run and he’s clearly inspired about playing off against its relentless melodic riffing. It helps carry things even higher and feeds into Newman’s vocal. He never pushes his voice to some boisterous level, but he nevertheless puts some added emotional oomph into the words that drives home the reality of his lyrics a little harder. It’s quite a masterful performance and doesn’t strike a single harsh note despite the potentially volatile subject matter. “When I Aim My Gun” has a lot of understated power coming from a variety of sources and it’s all handled with a balanced vision and steady hand.
His talents as a storyteller really come through in the lyrics. Newman has the eye of a short story writer with his condensed tales in each verse of the circumstances capable of conveying generalities and specifics in a mix that grabs listeners. He pushes the words in just the right way, never over emphasizing the dramatic potential of the lyrics, and letting the words speak for themselves. They are a good fit for the arrangement and Newman has wrapped them up in a vocal melody that makes great use of their strengths. This sort of substantive musical and lyrical experience from arch traditional forms like this is rare even in the best musical periods and that fact makes this song’s existence and what Mark Newman brings to the modern scene all that more precious. “When I Aim My Gun” isn’t some sort of modern protest song, it doesn’t preach, it simply takes a look around its world and brings back a slice of life from what it sees in a musical vehicle certain to please many ears.