Jack Marks Dakota Tavern, Toronto ON July 15

Jack Marks Dakota Tavern, Toronto ON July 15
Isn't it vulgar to call a young singer-songwriter Dylanesque? Here I'm looking at you, proselytizers of Conor Oberst. But with Jack Marks, there are so many charming similarities: clipped phrasing (when he so chooses), graceful notes finger-picked by nicotine-yellowed fingers kept that way to "keep the classy girls away," and a growing portfolio of songs as likely to incite giggling, à la "Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues," as to punch me right in my "Hollis Brown"-heart.

To further that comparison, Marks's set is heavily littered with Dylan B-sides. "Pledging My Time," "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," "Meet Me in the Morning" and "From a Buick 6" are rendered so effectively they should become the exclusive properties of Jack Marks.

But Marks's originals are what make him such an exciting talent. As Justin Rutledge said somewhat hyperbolically of him, "Jack Marks writes not only songs, but statues." And songs like "Michigan Love" or "Dress Song" are statues indeed. His ceiling as a lyricist is somewhere in the Jim Cuddy range, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

Marks's potent songs, if properly disseminated, could find a very marketable niche between lovers of alt-country and regular old oblivious consumers of commercial radio. Think Steve Earle, think Townes Van Zandt, think of someone that should be on your radar.

To offset all this fawning it should be noted that the sound was muddy, and there were a few rough moments as a couple new players were getting a try-out in his band. Also, there was an over-reliance on Springsteenian dance numbers in his three-set marathon, but that had to be done to appeal to the nearly adolescent paying audience, who probably wouldn't know Dave Van Ronk or the rich tradition to which he and Marks belong.