By Blake Parker
Left by the Sail Road, a recent full-length album by pianist Mark Deeks, pays homage to the English coast of Northumberland. The music quickly speaks for itself that this album was inspired by landscapes of grassy hills, rocky shores, and the constant waves of the North Sea. Within the first tracks, this imagery and more is delivered in musical form, along with a familiarity and friendliness that can only be felt towards something one considers a past home.
While Deeks has previously released the album Lightburst, which also credits inspiration from his home of Northumberland, Left by the Sail Road is distinctly more driven by the theme of setting. Approaching directly the role of water in the coastline of Northumberland, Left by the Sail Road has a clear influence of water as an element of division and of unity, and as an element of empathy and of apathy. From track to track and even within the songs themselves, musical direction can shift as swiftly as the currents of the sea, creating a characteristic unpredictability unique to oceans and seas alone.
The album floats peacefully from track to track, from progression to progression, with ease. Musically, little of the album commands the listener’s attention, and this observation is meant as praise. Many musical homages try (and often struggle) to convey specific, gripping tales of joy, heartbreak, love, and loss. All of these themes are present in Deeks’ album if the listener pays close attention,however they are there within the music to be taken or left; all the music of Left by the Sail Road asks is that you consider the setting of these stories.
Such is the particular approach for which Deeks deserves recognition most: while beckoning the listener down a narrative path, the music never insists it. Rather, the listener can explore the music at will, floating from one aspect of the auditory landscape to the next at their own pace, or if desired take the full plunge into the emotional journey offered by Left by the Sail Road. For these reasons and more, Deeks’ most recent album is an admirable addition to his growing discography.