British Columbia native, Carolyn Mark, has been active in the country music world since the early 1990s. She established herself by performing all over Canada and frequently tours the West coast of the United States. In 2000, she released a CD with Neko Case under the band name the Corn Sisters before wandering off to begin a solo career. She has been prolific as she has recorded five albums on her own now and the recently released Nothing is Free is an album that continues in her usual poignant style of roots country a la Tammy Wynette and the Carter Family.
There is a traditional country sound on Nothing is Free and there is frequent use of mandolin and violin to assist the mainly acoustic guitar led music. The songs do not just feature the usual country self-pity and ever forlorn lyrical themes though. “Happy 2B Flying Away” has some cool electric tremolo guitar and “Destination: You” is by far the strangest and best song on the album. It is mainly an almost psychedelic electric piano on this song and untraditional drumming. It is the only non-country sounding song on the record and also the most successful in terms of connecting with the listener. Her vocals sound like they are being sung from a mile away. Hopefully, the song hints at a new direction for her to follow.
Some of the lyrics are actually quite funny, such as the ones in “Pictures at 5” and “Honest Woman.” Excepting the last song, there is nothing particularly innovative here, but fans of modern real country music and Neko Case will be pleased, especially since the two have a past connection. Carolyn Mark has a sweet, down to earth voice that will certainly help to soothe the lost and the lonely out there and if she doesn’t succeed in doing that, maybe she will at least make you laugh.