Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Walking In Memphis by Mark Cohn
One Sunday morning in the early '70s, a youngster in Cleveland caught an earful of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks and his life was never to be the same. That kid was Marc Cohn and soon after that morning, he bought everything Morrison had released to date, along with works by Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne. Not long after an older brother taught him a Ray Charles tune on the piano, he joined a cover band, Doanbrook Hotel. He sang with them from junior high school until he left home for Oberlin College. All the while, Cohn learned to play guitar and was dabbling with the craft of songwriting since the cover band played everything but the kind of songs he loved so dearly. At Oberlin, Cohn taught himself to play the piano and a lasting bond formed. Soon enough, he transferred to U.C.L.A. and hit the Los Angeles coffeehouse and steakhouse circuit. Cohn made yet another move -- this time to New York to be with his fiancée and he then formed the Supreme Court, a 14-piece band complete with horn section. Putting the unusual spins on popular tunes, the band gained a following which included Carly Simon, who recommended they play Caroline Kennedy's wedding. That gig seemed like a good stopping point, as Cohn left the band to once again focus on his own songs. He sent a piano/vocal demo to Atlantic Records and landed himself a deal and from there he co-produced his debut with Ben Wisch with some assistance from John Leventhal. What emerged was a beautifully tasteful and intelligent album that included the hit "Walking in Memphis" and won Cohn a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The Rainy Season followed in 1993 and was a thematic complement to Cohn's debut. Folks like David Crosby and Graham Nash stepped up to the mic to lend their vocal support to this soulful new talent. Cohn was quiet for several years until 1998 with the release of Burning the Daze. Once again, the guests lined up to appear with Cohn. From Patty Griffin and Rosanne Cash to Chris Botti and Martin Sexton, Cohn is certainly not short on musical friends.