There’s a dusty, well-worn quality to the music found on Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle’s Let’s Just Stay Here. Infused with a sort of honky-tonk simplicity that isn’t quite alt-rock and isn’t quite country, the record rolls through 12 songs of truck-stop-ready music that calls to mind visions of lonely, weathered men and fading, weary women staring longingly into their cups of coffee.
Carolyn Mark, having grown up on a dairy farm in British Columbia, rolled through a series of bands and collaborations in her early career. She was one of the Corn Sisters with the always excellent Neko Case and worked in bands like Hat Head, The Fixin’s, and Monster Tweety. Somewhat of a musical drifter, Mark’s career filed easily from surf rock and alternative to country and punk rock.
NQ Arbuckle is a Canadian alternative country band. Led by Neville Quinlan, the band features Mark Kesper, Peter Kesper and John Dinsmore.
The collaboration of Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle feels intensely natural. The vocals are tremendous, as one would expect from Mark, and the rugged resolve of NQ Arbuckle’s guitars and drums till through like prairie machinery in overdrive.
The twang of guitar on album opener “All Time Low” introduces us to the type of project Let’s Just Stay Here is going to be. There’s a broad, open feel to the track that is further reinforced by the beautifully disparate vocal arrangement. Carolyn’s voice melts into the piece, offering cool but chilling admonitions while Neville Quinlan’s deepening tone draws attention to the jarringly spacious surroundings.
Elsewhere things are just as gritty and moving, such as the heartbreaking “2nd Time” and its cry-in-your-beer despair.
That’s not to say that Let’s Just Stay Here is all lost dogs and broken hearts, of course. There’s more to this country roots record than one might expect, as the playful “Itchy Feet” demonstrates. A sassy, rollicking piece, “Itchy Feet” asks if you “dance with the one that brought you or try one you never had.” Good question.
There’s a lot to like about this collaboration, that’s for sure. Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle have joined forces to deliver a country/rock/alternative/folk record that is as crisp and chilly as Alberta weather and as warm and welcoming as the coffee at that lonely truck stop just over the snow-capped mountains.