Artist: Cory Marks
Album: Who I Am
Label: Better Noise Music
If you follow Musicalypse, you’ve likely at least heard of Canadian heavy country artist Cory Marks by this point. Having released five singles since 2019, each one has offered a different side of his artistry, from the hard and heavy “Outlaws & Outsiders,” to the pure-country feel-good “Drive,” Marks manages to dance across the whole spectrum of country, rock, and even heavy metal with his sound. His debut under this artist name will be released on August 7th, 2020, via Better Noise Music and needless to say, we’ve been eagerly awaiting it.
If you’ve been wondering how a heavy-centered music journalist got so fervently interested in a country artist, the answer to that is that I was raised on country when I was a kid – it was more or less all my parents listened to. Of course, when I got into metal, I had that phase where I would listen to metal and only metal and fuck everything else, but fortunately I grew out of that and I’ve been able to go back and appreciate a lot of (but certainly not all) the country music that I grew up on. Cory Marks, therefore, has proven to be a fantastic blend of more or less everything I like about country with next to none of the things I don’t like, with the added bonus of a heavy sound that appeals deeply to my love of metal.
Read our interview with Marks from January 2020 HERE!
Ed: it seems that our promo had the songs ordered differently than the final release.
Marks has given us an interesting perspective on his sound, starting the album with the rather mellow yet upbeat and rockin’ “Drive” about doing just that: going for a drive. Keeping the rock influence minimal to get things started, the album starts with a pure country feel, but fortunately it’s not a stereotypical gloomy country track, but pleasant and slightly nostalgic. It’s a good introduction to Marks as an artist, knowing that he’s not just full of depressing moody country.
The album then takes a sharp turn with the tragic-feeling break-up ballad, “My Whiskey Your Wine.” One of three ballads on the album, this first one feels like it could have been written by any number of classic country artists, from Brooks ‘n Dunn to George Strait, thanks to its authentic sound. It doesn’t sound generic though, as the lyrics and feel are still creative, evoking the image of a sad fellow drinking the wine his lost love had left behind at his place. This song is also included at the end in acoustic format as well, though the versions perhaps don’t feel different enough to warrant the addition of a variant. The other ballads are Marks‘ first single, “Better Off,” which is a sad yet upbeat and empowering song about realizing a relationship has run its course, with pure country guitar lines added at optimal moments throughout the song. The last ballad, “Out in the Rain,” is the rather melancholic final song of the album (if you don’t count the acoustic rendition of “My Whiskey Your Wine”) but full of emotion. There’s a bit of a twang to Marks‘ voice that really comes out in songs like this, reminiscent of artists like Dwight Yokam or The Mavericks (though not nearly nasal enough to be so annoying, if you ask me). The full album version features Lzzy Hale of Halestorm on guest vocals to give it an extra punch.
It’s hard not to want to get up and dance and sing along with lively tracks like “Devil’s Grin” and “Blame it on the Double.” The former has a fantastic stompin’ rhythm and a great singalong-able “whoa ohh oh-oh” part that will surely be a hit in live shows, while the latter has a slower stomp to it and tasteful steel guitar for a great country-rock effect when blended with a variety of guitar sounds. The album’s big hit is, of course, the rebel anthem “Outlaws & Outsiders,” which features Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch fame, Travis Tritt, whose name you should know if you’ve ever heard a 90s country music song, and Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe on guitar. This hard-hitting track is easy to fall in love with as it’s fast and fierce – make sure you don’t play it on repeat until you hate it – it’ll be a true loss. If you do, however, be reassured that “She’s Hollywood” is about as much fun with its pure anthemic singalong bliss, with rise-and-fall dynamics, and an utterly fantastic chorus. The country guitars are on point and everything comes together into feel-good ecstasy.
“It’s Good to Be Us” is a perfect share-a-blanket-next-to-the-fire love song, with a pleasant, laid-back rhythm. The title track, “Who I Am,” has a similar outlaw/prison country sound that often represents a badboy/cowboy feel in country. However, when the song kicks up it gets a really rockin’ groove, lifting the country elements so the listener can imagine stomping their cowboy boots against a dusty hardwood floor.
Another of the all-new songs, “Keep Doing What I Do,” is a drinking anthem about raising hell with a great upbeat rock n’ roll feel – I may personally be way past the age group who likes to drink and fight all night, but hey, I still enjoy a good party song, so this track still works even if you’re not a booze monster. “Another Night in Jail” is a slower track with a strong dynamic build-up to the passionate chorus. There are interesting guitar effects in the background that I can’t place that help add depth to the song.
In a world that feels like everything has more or less been seen and done already, it seems as though the only way to achieve something innovative is to try combining existing things in new and unique ways. From Blind Channel‘s “violent pop” blend of hip-hop, pop, and heavy music to The HU and other bands who bring traditional folk sounds into heavy metal, Cory Marks is a breath of fresh air in the country scene that has been over-saturated with pop influences for far too long. Bringing the best parts of heavy music into the country mix, Marks‘ country music covers a vast range of experiences, from bad break-ups to summer driving tracks, empowerment anthems to drinking songs, and on the whole, Who I Am does just that: tell the listeners who Cory Marks is. Here’s hoping the heavy influences get him some attention in Europe so we have the chance to see him performing live sometime soon!
Rating: 9.5-10*/10, 5 stars
ed: it’s really hard to decide to dish out a full score, but this album may just deserve it
Tracklist (updated to be correct):
1. Devil’s Grin
2. Outlaws & Outsiders ft. Ivan Moody, Travis Tritt, & Mick Mars
3. Good to be Us
4. Blame it on the Double
5. Another Night in Jail
6. Who I Am
8. Better Off
9. My Whiskey Your Wine
10. Keep Doing What I Do
11. Out in the Rain
12. She’s Hollywood
13. My Whiskey Your Wine (acoustic)