It doesn’t matter whether it’s his electric blue bass or his Lanikai ukulele but musician Mark Dawson stays busy on the road touring with the Grass Roots. When he’s not doing that, he is playing with a longtime band of his great friends, Simulcast, but then he has free time, so the singer-songwriter gathered some more great friends and created yet another band, The Kings of Snack.
The Kings of Snack have been created and become prolific and performing just about as long as Dawson has hosted his weekly Thursday night radio program (9 p.m. EST) at Our Generation Radio. His programs feature his favorite songs that span 30 years of great music, special dedications to his faithful listeners, and he drops into the chat room to use his personal sense of humor to get input on some of his original songs.
Over the course of about a year, he and his colleagues wrote some songs and tested them out on his radio audience. They did a surprise concert on Jan. 18, 2014 for all the radio listeners and there was instant buzz. Turns out they really liked them, so much that fans told Mark, “You really ought to make an album.” And that is how the debut album from Mark Dawson and the Kings of Snack came up with “One Saturday Night.”
The band members include
Mark Dawson – vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, ukulele
Ben Van Hook – electric and acoustic guitars
Gladys Justiniano – vocals
Drew Steinke – drums
Clint Beard – keyboards, backing vocals
Jim Durbin, supporting keyboards
The CD has 12 tracks and starts out strong with “Clap Your Hands” (you know how it goes), followed by “Cold Sweat on a Hot Night,” “Vampire’s Lament,” “Crying to the Night,” “So Unusual,” “The Ukelele Song,” “Oh, Darling,” “Hollywood,” “Temptation Eyes,” “Say Yeah,” “All I Have to Do is Dream,” and “Radio Song.” Both Dawson and Ben Van Hook produced the album and Mark’s wife, Cathy Bernardi Dawson, did the concept and artwork for the CD cover.
It’s hard to know which song to declare as best, because that’s left in the ear of the listener, but there are several favorites that pop out. First, one of Dawson’s signature tunes, “The Ukelele Song” would easily give Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” a good run for its money, any day of the week. It is simply a feel-good-song that features opportunities to whistle or chime in with your “doo doo doodle doo doo doo’s” and it’s a mood transformer. It wasn’t long after the song came out that the Lowe’s television commercials started using an upbeat happy ukulele tune in the background, and it had a similar snappy vibe. So, Mark’s a trendsetter.
A second favorite tune is “So Unusual” which Dawson sings with Gladys Justiniano on his catchy composition. You will want to sing along as well by the time you hear it a second time through.
The great band cannot be beat on their version of the Grass Roots hit, “Temptation Eyes.” It’s so good that the Kings of Snack really should consider covering a lot of Grass Roots songs for another album down the road. In fact, because the studio recordings don’t have all the extra distortion that you might get from guitars and other live concert differences, this song in particular deserves a second, and third, listen.
You can actually hear how pure Mark’s voice is when he sings what Dan Walsh and Harvey Price wrote “just a few” years ago. Dawson has said on his radio show that, “he really loves all the Grass Roots songs he sings and feels very fortunate to be doing that.”
They do great work on hits from long ago, “Oh Darling,” “All I Have to Do is Dream,” and “Clap Your Hands” that you start thinking about wishing they’d do another full concert, the kind you could make plans to attend.
It’s really rare to feel like you know a group after just one CD, but somehow you do. Dawson has an effervescent sense of humor that spans keen to bizarre and back again, which explains “Vampire’s Lament.” Now don’t go looking for Edward or Bella, as Dawson explained in a prior interview, “the melody just kind of came to me and I felt it had a mood. The title followed from the mood, and that was that.”
Dawson did, however, make up his own word, “undetectedly” in “Vampire’s Lament.” He did think it was a real word, things it should be a real word, but when he went looking in the dictionary, it was to no avail. At one point he said, “when I sang it with our Kings of Snack recording, it was already in there so by the time I found out, well, there it was.”
But he quickly pointed out, “If it was good enough for Steve Miller to sing of a nonexistent “Pompetus of Love,” I can sing ‘undetectedly,’ right?” You can hear a sample of “Vampire’s Lament” and get the CD on Mark’s web site. The album “One Saturday Night” started out as a few songs and a good idea.
Ultimately The Kings of Snack were encouraged to add their talents and bring the music to the people who wanted to hear it. It takes a lot of time, effort and energy, not to mention money, for independent artists to put it all on the line to make a CD (or album, depending on what you call it). The good news is that “One Saturday Night” will be a worthy addition to the collection of anyone who enjoys classic rock tunes and new music that’s definitely listener friendly.