Review Summary: dying’s the easy part
I don’t really know much about Mark Kulmala. He resides in a cultural crossroad; the mighty Montreal. He has a bushy, proud, all-Canadian beard and a cat or so. He posts all sorts of cosy, humblingly quiet experiences to his Facebook page: a gig in Ontario where he thanks every participant, a smile next to a gussied up Claus with the caption “I’m so stoked that I finally got to meet Santa. Great guy. Great style”, and an appropriately corny consumption of Mountain Dew atop a mountain (#dewthedew, remember it). Mark Kulmala is unrelentingly ordinary and is completely honest about it. He plays an acoustic guitar in E standard and possibly throws a capo on it from time to time. And maybe that’s what makes him so terrifying because when someone so painfully ordinary can throw a line like If I die before you die will you remember me
into such simple compositions without any semblance of force, I’m almost inclined to believe Mark Kulmala has lived.
It kinda confuses me, really. His folksy tunes are bare and easy; it’d be straightforward enough to emulate his sound in a few minutes with some basic strumming and a stronger southern emphasis on my Rs. What I couldn’t replicate with any degree of accuracy would be the honesty in which he details his tragedies. The awkward fumbling at the end of “Dying” as his voice degrades out of tune feels ordinary. There isn’t a powerful set of lungs forcing forth words like You said “Son, the dying’s the easy part / It’s living with the ghost of what you’ve done / That will haunt your heart”
into existence. Part of me wonders if this album should even exist in the public world for unknowing and ignorant people such as myself to remark upon; this intimate mess of unremarkable music feels tied absolutely and completely to Mark Kulmala.
Heart of Wood
is tired, and simple, and rustic, and it doesn’t care if it relishes in tedium. It’d be so easy to tear a new one in the lack of individuality but I couldn’t imagine Mark Kulmala writing this album in any other way. Every lyric rhymes with often somewhat comical consequence, and every song sounds like that one other folk song. And I think that might just be okay. I don’t get the idea that he is particularly tormented but I’m almost inclined to believe Mark Kulmala has lived. And while elements of hope do pervade, I think one look at his Facebook page is enough to know he continues to live in gratitude and in love. Mark Kulmala has lived a human life and has chosen to do and be better. I don’t think that’s a standard I’ve reached but it is most certainly something to strive for.
My feet in the ground, I pounded them down
Grew taller than any man should
I shed my old flesh and grew a heart of wood