Charlie Mars

Live at the Saxon Pub With David Grissom

Texas Platters

What separates a bona fide storyteller from a singer-songwriter? Gift of gab, certainly, and unblinking confidence from the word "hello." Yet while the latter works night and day fusing words to chords, melody, a chorus, the former spins real life into songs line by line, detail by detail, irony by paradox.

Occasional South Austinite by way of Mississippi, Charlie Mars opens Live at the Saxon Pub With David Grissom clutching the South Lamar saloon in the palm of his picking hand via the spit-take, Southern Living absurdity of "Dream Kitchen." The not-so-honorary local in the title then adds a symphony of guitars in six measly strings.

Central to the duo's acoustic duetting is Mars introducing highlight tracks with their own almost talking blues suites. "Trillion Dollar House" becomes "Beach Town," "Wedding Song" primes "I Do I Do," and breakup pairing "I Will Write You a Song"/"Bad Guy" resolves when the ex opines, "That song is very good ... but we are not getting back together." Like a far more sincere and sensitive Ray Wylie Hubbard, the man at the mic revels in Southern raconteuring.

Even so, while hilarity rules the roost at times, rather than the material devolving into novelty, you hang on every word for both their jocularity as well as the resolution of narrative. In between, find an affecting vocal lilt leading into a primo chorus: "If you want to come over, come over" so we can "Listen to the Darkside" of the Moon. And instant brain pan loop "Hell Yeah" questions why its copyright didn't exist before.

***.5

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