Graig Markel & Versus on Venus: The Summer Fire EP (Recovery)

A great five-song pop CD with a soulful influence.

Back in 1995, Graig Markel was fronting the Seattle-based group New Sweet Breath, a power pop trio that entertained audiences by jumping on tables, spitting on fans, and playing a relentless, high- volume guitar that literally shook the venues in which they played. They also cranked out some of the catchiest songs one could ever hope to come across in the Seattle club scene. Since then, Markel’s sound has evolved into a mellow, soulful pop sound that he can truly call his own. Now mainly a solo artist, he records most of his music on his own, playing all the instruments and using a live band for performances.

The Summer Fire EP is a great five-song pop CD with a soulful influence. The songs are melodic and the guitar sound is far cleaner than in his earlier works with New Sweet Breath. He has recently been performing Prince covers at many of his shows, and that influence can be heard in his own songs. Of course, he can also be heard from time to time playing songs by the Cure and this influence comes through in his vocal performances.

The CD opens with “Daybreak,” a haunting ballad that is a perfect radio hit and a great example of his unique sound and his vocal ability. On “Looking Glass,” he wastes no time in launching into a guitar solo at the beginning of the song, catching the listener’s attention the second it starts.

With a sound that is now more toned down and mellow, the live shows have still been as entertaining as ever. In concert, the songs off this CD really come to life. Graig’s brother, Nick, helps out on bass guitar and spits all over the audience like a fire hydrant, whether it’s a slow song or a fast one, usually to an encouraging and amused audience. No doubt people will get equal enjoyment out of the new CD.

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