We first met Mark Brine early on in our endeavors of this web site. We don't know how
he found out about it, but we've been lucky to meet some great folks because of this
ongoing historical project of a site. Mark wanted to be a part of the site and well,
he made us an offer we couldn't refuse.
He told us he could write a couple of biographies for us of folks he had come to know
and admire during his career. One was the legendary Grand Ole Opry fiddler, Sid Harkreader.
Another was the man who introduced him to the audiences of the Grand Ole Opry - Hank Snow.
And write he did - hand-written as a matter of fact and nicely done we must say. If you
don't believe us - check out what he wrote about those two legends.
But let's get to know this fellow a bit, shall we?
He's been performing quite a while and shows know sign of losing his creative urge and
ability to write and perform. From his own web site, we borrow a couple of snippets to
help you get to know him a bit.
In the 1960's, Mark was living in New England and doing folk music. Folk then was a musical genre
which itself had fragmented from old-time mountain music. These days they call it all Americana.
In the 1970's, he moved to Nashville to take in some traditional country of the sort
he already loved, but unfortunately his timing wasn't the best; he got there too late.
By that time Nashville was producing more of a Countrypolitan sound, a different sound from
the traditional sounds that generations had grown to love and enjoy. And at that time, Mark
was already "too country" in a time when that phrase hadn't even been thought of. The song,
"I was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" comes to mind doesn't it?
He wasn't out to be an "outlaw," so he wasn't one of the outlaws. He wasn't a California
honky-tonker, so Bakersfield wasn't his destination.
And neither of those neo-traditionalist movements attracted him. So, he did what any artist
that had that inner spirit of knowing what "his" music was about and the direction he
wanted to take it.
He continued to do the traditional Americana sound, and gave it his own unique styling.
He probably single-handedly shaped the Americana genre by releasing "Return to Americana"
in 1985, a time when today's current Americana artists were still being
called "country" or "blues" artists (if, indeed, they were even recording yet!).
But by keeping true to his sound, it brought him to the attention of Hank Snow,
who was so impressed with the 1992 single, "New Blue Yodel," he invited Mark
to appear on the Grand Old Opry.
Yes, that old-time style of Opry, when Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl
were still around, was exactly where Mark Brine belonged. Unfortunately, the Opry was
going to change as much as country music itself in very short order, and what should
have led to some much-deserved recognition simply vanished under the enforced pop sounds
and slick productions that characterized "country" music throughout the nineties.
Mark has lived in some very metropolitan cities - Cambridge, Nashville, Baltimore to name a few,
but he has a small-town quality to him and his music that make you feel his music is at home when
you listen to it. He describes that style on his "New Blue Yodel" CD:
"...his songs live in a place can't find on any map. ... Where life is still precious and
significant, and death is still a heartbreak that can shatter a soul. Where a down'n out singer
is still standin' at the intersection, just tryin't'fig're how t' make a meal."
And wouldn't you like to hear someone like Roy Acuff tell you, "I could listen to him
sing all night long"?
That Blue Yodel CD and others try to give fans who may not know Mark what he sounds like - as
someone will often do in trying to describe to friends what someone sounds like, especially
when they've made an impression.
That CD notes, "...just think of it as Woody Guthrie and Lyle Lovett taking Mark Twain on
a picnic somewhre deep in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. You know the place, a place of
earth, grass, hickory smoke, cool water and so many different colors of blue."
Along the way, Mark has been a staff writer and roster artist for two Nashville record labels.
He's the winner of the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Contest in Meridian, Mississippi.
He's been the opening act at the legendary World Famous Tootsies Orchid Lounge in
Nashville for six years. He's appeared on Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree
with Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys.
His debut performance on the Grand Ole Opry was with Hank Snow and his Rainbow Ranch Boys.
He was inducted into the National Traditional Country Music Association (NTCMA) Hall of Fame
Along about the summer of 2006, we had a business trip back east to the Philadelphia area.
We took a drive on Saturday night during that trip down to Aberdeen, Maryland and got
to meet Mark and his wife at a diner that was appropriate for two folks who enjoy the
simpler, traditional sounds of country music. It was indeed a treat and as time always
does when the times are good and the company as well, flew by all too quickly. We got
to hear many tales of his times in Nashville and the people he met. Heck, he even wore
the hat you always see him with in his pictures. He even brought along his copy of
the autographed JEMF booklet that did a biography of Fiddlin' Sid Harkreader. We were
birds of a feather, for we've also been lucky enough to obtain an autographed copy
of that booklet. Now if only the trip was longer and we had been able to see Mark
perform, but then, that's life for you - you have something to take with you to the
next time you meet up along the way.
A couple of years ago, we had the pleasure of receiving a uniqute Christmas greeting
from Mark and Karen - Mark's Christmas CD. It hit the spot. It included folks he had
worked with, instrumentals as well as vocals. And the overall sound left you feeling
comfortable and relaxed - not one of those typical over-produced efforts that include booming
sounds and choruses that drown out the voice of the artist. The voice, the lyrics, the music
are what you hear.
Mark is still recording these days and has a new effort that features some of those
old traditional country standards in his style. He pays tribute to Hank Williams this
time around, doing "Your Cheatin' Heart". But there's a part of us that would have
liked to hear him do his version of "Lovesick Blues" as well.
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Mark Brine himself
for his earlier contributions to the site in documenting his memories with Fiddlin'
Sid Harkreader and Hank Snow. And for making the time to meet him and his wife
in Aberdeen, Maryland on a summer, rainy night.