In 2011, Mark Edgar Stuart had a bad year. A few months after being diagnosed with cancer, a lifelong friend and hero--his father Lou--passed. From that heartache came a new, unexpected outlet: the decorated sideman (band-mate of Alvin Youngblood Hart, John Paul Keith, Jack Oblivian, and more) began writing his own songs. The bassist became a singer-songwriter, and Mark Edgar Stuart began to tell his own story.

Fortunately for us, he’s a natural-born storyteller.

Blues For Lou--Stuart’s debut album--is a collection of songs written in the wake of his father’s passing. Fittingly, Stuart’s songwriting pays tribute to the people, places, and music he and his father shared. Produced by Jeff Powell (Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Allman Brothers), the album tells a sad story happily. Sunny acoustic guitars, breezily melodies, and restrained performances backdrop songs about loss. Powell’s production and Stuart’s pitch-perfect vocals put a brave face on a hard tale.

From the opening track, the album disarms and astonishes with its vividly-realized stories and characters, small towns and living rooms, past loves and troubles ahead. “Remote Control” extends a single metaphor to tell a heart-breaking story of loss. “Almost Mine” casts a warm, generous light on unrequited love. “Arkansas Is Nice” uses a castoff line of dialog to describe everything a hometown is and isn’t. From the plain-spoken poetry of “Things Ain’t Fine” to the gorgeous epitaph “Blues For Lou,” Stuart’s stories are sweet but never saccharine, even-keeled but deeply affecting. His songs are at once sad, nostalgic, knowing, funny, even cheerful--equal parts Roger Miller and Eudora Welty. And Stuart sings them with the confidence of someone who knows that the story is enough.

Blues For Lou is both a tribute to Mark Edgar Stuart’s late father and an homage to the style of music they shared. It’s lovable and literary, smart yet plain-spoken, heartening, funny, and always memorable. It sounds new and familiar, fresh yet timeless. It sounds like your favorite stories, retold by your closest friend.

Lean in, listen close, and smile

--Written by Chris Milam

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