Mark Newman – When I Aim My Gun
Mark Newman comes across with the sort of easy swagger and broad confidence you might expect from a native New Yorker. It’s also a hallmark of a master musician who has amassed quite a résumé over the years as one of the top sidemen working in popular music today. His ability to skillfully play a number of instruments certainly sets him apart from many players working today and reflects his deep musical vocabulary, but his comparable talents as a vocalist and songwriter make him a total package for audiences in a way that few musical performers ever are. You can hear the many years and life lessons that have gone into making Mark Newman’s “When I Aim My Gun” the powerful experience it proves to be early on, but this is a fundamentally strong song that, even divorced from his performing presence, would make great material for any talented musician and/or performer.
The structure is so remarkably sound. There isn’t any wasted motion in “When I Aim My Gun” and Newman transitions each part of the song with a surety of direction that’s undoubtedly born from experience. He keeps things moving in a satisfyingly predictable path from one section into the next and, if one expects the inevitable changes that come, you can’t help but turn your head away impressed by how well Newman and his collaborators pull them off. There’s plenty of grit and emotion in “When I Aim My Gun”, but there’s an ample amount of style too and it helps make the difficult content go down all the more smooth.
Never let it be said Mark Newman restricts himself to writing about safe things. There’s a lot traditional about the music and arrangement for this song, but Newman takes real risk by writing about a subject like gun violence. He does it, however, with such writerly skill, never falling firmly on one side or the other of the issue unless just being anti-violence in general is considered a side, and his distance from conclusions makes the song all the more appealing to take in. It provokes thought, it never mandates an answer. You can kind of glean some sort of idea where Newman comes down on the issue, but he’s obviously much more concerned with the human factors of these situations – like any good songwriter should be.
The music is first rate. Newman’s guitar playing should be considered the central instrumental in the song’s musical presentation, but the organ playing brings a lot to the song as well and that’s clearly by design. The contrasting sounds are a classic combination and Newman certainly sounds confident using them within his music – they bring a rambunctious air to seriousness of the track that raises the entertainment factor up several notches. Mark Newman’s “When I Aim My Gun” is one of his finest recordings yet and illustrates why this important musician continues to be one of the brightest talents on the scene today.