[Rating: 3.5 stars]
Charlie Mars is a songwriter from El Dorado, Arkansas, who’s been climbing the long ladder of success since 1996 (he toured with R.E.M. in 2004). For his fifth album, Mars was less interested in traditional rock structures, and more interested in the holy groove; many parts were captured in one take. But despite the emphasis on texture and layers, each song contains a satisfying pop music center underneath. Insistent percussion and ephemeral acoustic guitar help the title track sound like an outtake from Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints. “Gather The Horses” builds and then climaxes like Achtung Baby-era U2. Mars’ voice is plaintive and warm, and he applies it to songs about love that’s on the verge of either soaring or sinking. The prettiest melody might be “Listen to the Darkside,” where he tries to get a girl to forget her troubles, come over to his house and get high and listen to Dark Side of the Moon.