Article taken from Fairplay Collective’s website
Mark Dignam is an Irish born, US based songwriter who began as a busker on the streets of Dublin. Dignam’s songs are always intelligent and insightful, balanced with an infectious sing-along quality and that irresistible Irish wit… His sound draws comparisons to Van Morrison, Dylan, and Tim Buckley as well as the more contemporary songwriters of today like Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, and Sun Volt.
Live, Dignam delivers powerful, three-dimensional performances, a songwriter’s songwriter, and yet an accessible gem. He engages audiences with warm melody, lyricism, strong personality and has been invited to open for or tour with Billy Bragg, David Gray, Richard Thompson, Joan Armatrading, Vic Chestnut, The Frames, Paddy Casey and a host of others…
Dignam’s latest release “Boxheart Man” is available from iTunes and was selected by Pittsburgh’s WYEP as one of their top picks for 2005, and his track “Hope” from the album was included in the station’s 2006 compilation release “Live and Direct, Volume 7.” It has also garnered a bagful of critical acclaim around the Nth Eastern US as well as in Ireland and the UK.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called “Box Heart Man”, “…solid through and through, showcasing Dignam’s soaring voice and poetic flair…”
Acclaimed London songwriter Teitur said “Mark Dignam is one of the few living songwriters out there who do it for me. This is real music. His voice carries so much emotion and nerve that it will instantly change the way you feel. If you have heard him once, you will remember it always. This is not cuddle-up-and-order-a-caffe-latte-comfort-music that dominates this tired genre, but the very edge that moves it forward into a place where it is believable again.”
Glen Hansard (The Frames) “… Your album is pure beautiful…so rich and colourful and full of your amazing brave lyrics!! You really sing about where you are and it’s a lesson to us all..”
Paddy Casey “… I remember the first time I heard Mark Dignam, I was down one end of Grafton Street and I heard this voice soaring from the other end, I had never heard anything that powerful on the radio or the TV. I was a kid at the time, and I just thought to myself, I wanna sing like that some day.”
Mark Dignam begins this album with a light and dreamy blend of pop and alt country on “Divine,” which describes the track quite well. Coming from a crop of singer/songwriters who would include Josh Ritter and Josh Rouse, Dignam uses his strong timbre to nail each song to near perfection in the way Ryan Adams honed Gold. “Build” on the other hand is a kind of electro-roots tune with a political message that ambles along easily thanks to Dignam’s brilliant melody, a talent that the musician seems to create constantly. “Hope” is more radio-friendly in a pop mode and could be mistaken for the Go-Betweens with the dual harmonies. Perhaps the lone effort that could be mildly disappointing is “Pinwheel” which seems like a patio pop tune in the vein of John Mayer. The miscue is atoned for with the gorgeous, precious and somewhat hymn-like “Ghosts” that has the singer downplaying the vocals in an almost monotone fashion à la a Celtic Lou Reed. The mid-tempo and infectious “Jane” could often be mistaken for a track by the Proclaimers, but Dignam gives it more bite here. Perhaps the highlight is “Kindred” which is a simple roots tune but with the singer opening up vocally and melodically. A close second, though, is the melancholic and very vivid “Deceiver” that is pure Americana from an Irish perspective. On the whole Box Heart Man is an album extremely well-crafted and adventurous at the same time. ~ Jason MacNeil, All Music Guide
Music Review: Mark Dignam – Box Heart Man
Monday, April 7th, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Natalie Herman and Paddy-Whacked Radio™
Bob Dylan is the artist that comes to mind for many a reviewer or critic when posed with writing about Mark Dignam. On the surface, it is easy to see the comparison – acoustic guitarist, harmonica player, social activist, singer-songwriter – it’s easy to check the “Dylan” box on the genre sheet and move on. But Dignam has more of a parallel to Dylan than just a six-string and a mouth harp; Dignam’s brassy voice and his unrelenting stance against the injustices of the world, sung from the much-more-relatable soapbox of his own personal world speaks to the global-vision-in-me songwriting of Bob Dylan. Dignam projects that social awareness and identifiability that defines Dylan’s music but manages to keep his songs personal while being universal.
In Mark Dignam’s Box Heart Man, he best demonstrates that ability with “Build,” a compelling socio-political anthem for our time which speaks to those who “think it’s hip to be a deconstructionist.” Dignam’s message, that “it’s not about what you break down, it’s about what you build,” has all of the fire of the sixties’ activism with all of the fuel needed to take on the negativity of today’s youth generation. In fact, that refrain – simple but true – resonates strongly for anytime one is faced with an adversary.
Dignam calls them as he sees them, as in the electronic-sounding “Fable,” in which he seeks “an honest human being” and chides those “big-ugly-car-loving freaks” and “networking sycophants.” Rather, he clearly values personal awareness as a means of advancement; as he brilliantly puts it, “We’ve got more arrows in our bows every time we pay attention.”
For Dignam, less is more; he allows the songs to speak for themselves, affording each only a one-word title. This succinctness extends to the lyrics themselves; without being overly wordy, Dignam poses his ideas, and it is up to the listener to decide what they mean.
Dignam’s insight into the human condition, particularly the dynamic between man and woman, is expertly expressed in the powerful song, “Flags.” Dignam sings, “it’s fear that makes sharp-dressed men march across the souls of women . . .they’ll pin their flags to a mast out of terror.” His sombre vocals speak to the gravity of the situation that arises when life interferes with love.
Dignam, however, is not solely about sounding off – he climbs off his soapbox with “Jane,” showing that he is aware of the flaws and vulnerability in even the most staunch and willing hearts.
His romantic side brings about songs like “Divine,” “Royalty,” and inspiring songs like “Hope,” a cheery tune with fluid language whose words twist and intertwine, sounding like a lyrical Celtic knot.
Itinerancy seems to be a theme of Box Heart Man, in which songs such as “Jane,” and “Kindred” speak of the traveler who is at odds with his transience.
In “Pinwheel,” Dignam depicts his sense of wanderlust with lyrics infused with the spirit of Jack Kerouac and music with the bite of Hunter S. Thompson. He manages to capture on this track much of the charisma he brings to his live performances – so much, in fact, that he brings the listener with him as he lets “that latent Gypsy blood flow all over the road, all over the road.”
The aptly named “Ghosts” is airy and chilling with an underlying melody that will linger, haunting your mind long after the disc has stopped spinning. In this religiously-undertoned song, Dignam guides the listener through a somnambulant journey with no clear beginning or end.
The closing song, “Royalty,” begins with a nod to Shakespeare’s sonnets but quickly moves to a more realistic and relatable view of modern-day romance. Ever the realist, Dignam’s observations about relationships – on this and the other songs – are at once refreshing, disturbing in their truthfulness, and ultimately, comforting.
Altogether, this is a fantastic disc to have on the open road, as you allow Dignam and his restless spirit to take you wherever his “latent Gypsy blood” chooses to flow.
NOTE: You can hear Mark’s songs at www.fairplaycollective.com/gpage6.html and at www.myspace.com/markdignam and purchase Box Heart Man on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/box-heart-man/id107468571