Scott Duhamel: Thoughts on "Walks of Life Collaborations"

Time and time again, timelessly I guess, musician and social activist Mark Cutler demonstrates just exactly the right way to wear his particularly RI-heart on his undeniably blue collar sleeve.

His newest effort, “The Same Thing Projects” album, “Walks of Life”, is not exactly a Cutler solo project or band effort, but instead a uniquely cohesive collaborative creation, which has Cutler spearheading a handful of local musicians, regular folk, and a batch of participants with special needs, creating songs on the spot, and then nurturing them to a not-so-neat finish. While guided by Cutler (as producer, guitarist, and reoccurring vocalist), the finished songs all evolved from a lengthy series of truly collaborative sessions, with everyone pitching in song ideas, lyrics, and vocal turns. The results are more than endearing, by turns rocking, dreamy, catchy and effervescent.

It all sounds like some weird mix of a lower key “Self Potrait” by Dylan, or some found “Exile”-period Keith Richards (with an added social conscious) demo session, or the somewhat forgotten cult classic, “The Langley Schools Music Project.” The coolest part is that some of the best moments occur outside and inside the occasional sweet harmonies, lilting melodies, and catchy choruses—it’s the slightly off-key lead vocals and the not-so-together group vocalizing that winds up sticking to your ears. The overall effect is charming and memorable, and while the obviously group-think lyrics are often just this side of Lyric Writing 101, or slightly obvious, the full listening experience is remarkably poignant, even, at times, quietly transcendent. 

All in all, yet another vivid detour in Cutler’s long and winding career road, and a recording that easily distinguishes itself because it is unabashedly underlining the healing power of music, the strange and temporary magic of collaboration, and, believe it or not, the inveterate power of people.