The Ugly American finds Mark Eitzel, the composer and arranger Manolis Farnellos, and a group of Greek traditional musicians revisiting some of Mark and American Music Club’s most acclaimed songs. This collaboration might have been a dangerous business, given the extremities of passion stirred by much of that canon, even if the bottom line has to be they are his songs and he can do what he likes with them.
Fortunately it turns out to be an inspired move ; a meeting made in heaven (or perhaps Olympus). The settings are absolutely perfect; Mark’s voice always on the edge of emotional overload is complemented perfectly by the richness and intensity of the traditional instruments. The strings haunt the opening“Western Sky’. The urgent pipes, and perhaps reeds on ‘Here They Roll Down’ remind us of Cale’s viola on ‘The Black Angels’ Death Song’, and then later they drift and slide beautifully into ‘Nightwatchman’.
Other songs happily revived are ‘Last Harbor’, ‘Will You Find Me’ and ‘Jenny’. There’s also one new song ‘What Good Is Love’ and as closer a cover of Farnellos’s ‘Love’s Humming (Black Love)’. All quite, quite gorgeous.