Mark “Pocket” Goldberg, Off The Alleyway, MPG Records
Some albums seem to defy description. They don’t quite fit in any one category, no matter how much some might try to put them there. Mark “Pocket” Goldberg’s alluring Off The Alleyway is one of those musical misfits–and proudly so. It would be easy to give it a blues tag, because all those elements are surely there. But that would be shortsighted. Goldberg’s character-filled voice can run right alongside Willy DeVille or Bobby Charles, depending on the song, but he remains very much his own man. No doubt life experiences have notched their groove on his heart, but it’s in what he does with those episodes that make this music so unforgettable.
There is quite the cast of characters playing with Goldberg, ranging from special guests like James Gadson, Jay Dee Maness, Terry Evans, Barry Goldberg, Teresa James and the Texacali Horns to a band with the funky singing drummer Debra Dobkin, guitarist Nick Kirgo and keyboardist David Fraser. Goldberg himself handles upright bass along with lead vocals and songwriting duties, and has such an easeful atmosphere about him it feels like he’s been doing this since the invention of dirt. There is absolutely no sweat or strain showing here; instead the vocals sound like they’ve grown out of some ancient ground and shine with the light of a true believer.
What ultimately makes Off The Alleyway such a stunner is that Mark Goldberg has tapped into the eternal hope that lives inside great music. Whether he’s singing about down home women, being behind bars, low down blues or just whistling life away, there is the thread of soul woven through everything he touches. If The Band had been based in Southern California, or Dr. John had decamped earlier in the San Fernando Valley maybe they would have made music like this. But what matters most now is that Goldberg has found the big pockets to put his creations in, and everything fits just fine. Now it’s time others climb in.