There is no shortage of singer-songwriters out there today and it can be hard to pin down a new one to listen to. But I’ve got a tip if you’re looking for one. Check out John Mark Nelson. The young Minnesotan has released his third album I’m Not Afraid on the new GNDWIRE label (started by Dave Simonett of Trampled By Turtles). This was his first proper show in New York City (and the Mercury Lounge crowd was thin) one night after his first show in Philadelphia for World Cafe Live (a video from that show is below). I listened to I’m Not Afraid and found myself repeating a few of the tracks, particularly “A Hundred Orchards”. Nelson possesses a wispy voice reminiscent of Stuart Murdoch’s (of Belle and Sebastian) which is lent additional heft from several of his band mates members, including Steven Bosmans and Kara Laudon. Nelson had spoken to PopMatters a few months back about his track “Dream Last Night”, describing the song as “a driving anthem in response to the realization that nothing is ever as simple as it appears”, and this is a particularly good example of the vocal similarities.
At the Mercury Lounge show, Nelson introduced his expensive florescent lights (“I’m Not Afraid”) indicating he hopes to make back his outlay for them eventually. The show itself went pretty much like how any show would go. Nelson’s dove headlong into mostly new material (including “Orchards” and “Dream”) setting aside some time for friendly banter of course. Nelson tried to give his drummer the nickname “New York” Nate but it didn’t stick despite repeated attempts. At the end of their hour long-ish set, Nelson and his band concluded with a great cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” before he took off from the stage to sign albums at the merch booth. I heard rumors Nelson will have a proper tour in the early Spring, so stayed tuned to his page. In the meantime, stream I’m Not Afraid below.