Tad Marks,
The Back Road Home
(independent, 1994/2006)

When you want to hear great musicians it's necessary to listen, not only to the headliners, but also the backup performers. They add a crucial element to the performance and often enhance it immeasurably.

A case in point is fiddler Tad Marks, who often accompanies Celtic/Maritime singer Charlie Zahm. I've known Charlie for many years and I try to attend as many of his concerts as possible. If you've read any of my reviews, you already know he is one of my all-time favorite singers.

Since I have a son who is a Celtic fiddler, I started paying more attention to Tad and his technique. In the past several years, Tad and I have become friends to the point where we can share a drink together. At a recent Charlie/Tad concert in Marietta, I bought one of Tad's CDs, The Back Road Home.

If you think that Tad is a one-dimensional Celtic fiddler, boy, are you wrong. He has played for and with many well-known folk, country and bluegrass artists. His recordings and his work in jingles and television commercials earned him many awards. According to an online biography, Tad studied composition at Penn State, and seven of the pieces on this CD, including the title track, were composed by him. And, in addition to his current work with Charlie Zahm, Tad has performed and recorded with artists such as Seamus Kennedy, Danny Doyle and the Del McCoury Band.

I bought this particular CD because of the first track, "The Orange Blossom Special," which I've often seen Tad perform. His bowing and fingering were so sharp that I swear sparks were leaping from his fiddle. The same enthusiasm continues through all 17 tracks on The Road Back Home.

While I admit I am not a great bluegrass aficionado, I thoroughly enjoy listening to this 1994 recording from Crop Circle Records. It was remastered in 2006 to add six new tunes including Tad's own "You are the One" with vocals by Charlie. While I did not grow up with this genre of music, this entire recording seems to transport the listener back to the kinder and gentler days.

If you ever attend a Charlie Zahm/Tad Marks concert, it's a twofer. You'll hear two A-class musicians for the price of one. Not only do they complement each other, they seem to enjoy performing together.

music review by
Bill Knapp

17 October 2015

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