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The best kept secret in music


"Surfer CD Cuts Waves"

By Mike Farragher

Somewhere in the Atlantic, the cool currents of James Taylor’s Hyannis and Jimmy Buffet’s warm Key West surf pushed a new crop of musicians to the shore.

That laid back, acoustic vibe of those legends has been reincarnated in artists like Jack Johnson and G. Love, who are as fashionable as board shorts with the hang ten surfer crowd.

In the music of Man Down, the latest incarnation from the people who brought you the immortal Donegal X-Press, you can almost hear the flip-flops squeak toward the bonfire on the beach. Readers of this column have long heard me gush the praises of Donegal X-Press, a group of Celtic Beltway artisans who have branched out into tasty side projects that fuel the creative mother ship.

While the other members of Donegal X-Press write poetry books and front country rock outfits, Jeff Malcom (drums, bass) and Skye Sadowski (violin) retreat to the beach with Lost in the City, along with fellow Baltimore pals Vinne Garufi (guitar, vocals, bass), Brad Starkey, and his brother Rick (both on guitar and vocal). They hit the surf and hang ten with a winner.

To hear the band tell it, “Add a little saltwater to a lot of soul can make for a pleasantly well-rounded musical experience.” I couldn’t say it better myself.

A gentle undercurrent of folk and reggae wash over Skye’s fine Celtic fiddling. “There’s a storm on the bay/but I think I see the sight of the harbor lights/there’s a storm on the water/gotta settle the score on the race to the harbor,” they sing on the slow hand reggae that is “Race to the Harbor.”

The beat bounces carelessly along with the island breeze melody of “Beltway” as the Starkey brothers sing in a nasally, James Taylor-esque voice that demonstrate that these guys are really in touch with their sinuses. “When You Gonna Find” is a soulful song of loss that’s perfect when you’re looking to call it a night at the tiki bar.

Lost in the City is full of summertime good vibrations that proved to be just what the doctor ordered as I drove through the gloomy sleet and snow during the past week.

Look for the group to rock the Chesapeake [Bay] and everywhere else you find water in the coming months. In the meantime, pick up a slice of island cool by logging onto - The Irish Voice - NYC

"Grab Bag"

by Greg Yost

As summer approaches and the humidity rises, the capitol region becomes a steamy and almost tropical environment – the perfect kind of climate for Man Down and its music.

Formed in Florida by the brother team of Brad and Rick Starkey, Man Down took on its current roster when the Starkeys moved to Maryland and joined forces with their old friend Vinnie Garufi, along with Jeff Malcom and Skye Sadowski-Malcom of the great Baltimore band the Donegal X-Press. The musicians quickly gelled and have formed a group that has become a unique and creative voice in a region filled with talented musicians and bands.

Man Down’s music is laid back and relaxed, revealing hints of folk, rock and reggae. The band credits artists like mellow James Taylor and funky and rocking Sublime, along with the acoustic surf-rock music of Jack Johnson as major creative influences on their sound. One listen to the band’s debut album, Lost in the City, and the role these artists, and others like them, played in shaping the band's sound is fairly obvious.

The album kicks off with the mysterious "Helpless Heart." The song takes on a bit of a Celtic feel as Sadowski-Malcom’s haunting fiddle weaves its way throughout the verses. The next song, the catchy "Every Now & Then," has much more of a pop sound to it and the third track, "Beltway," is a great little piece of acoustic reggae. All you have to do is listen to the first three songs to realize that Man Down offers a lot of variety to a listener.

The Starkey brothers’ excellent songwriting ability is also evident throughout Lost in the City. The sunny "St. Augustine Days" and the reflective "First View" shine, while the contemplative "When You Gonna Find" could stand up against some of Van Morrison’s finest ballads.

While all of the elements of each song are expertly captured and mixed, the overall sound of the disc is quiet. I found myself constantly turning up my stereo throughout the album. But in the end, Lost in the City is an album that Man Down should be very proud of and their fans will enjoy for a long time…. - Music Monthly Magazine- Baltimore/Wash. DC


Offshore Café (2002)
Lost in the City (2004)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Sometimes getting lost is a good way to get found…and refined. While lost at sea aboard the boat they sometimes called home, brothers Brad and Rick Starkey found a love for songwriting that would get them lost time and time again. While blending their soulful melodies with thoughtful lyrics along their endless Atlantic travels, they discovered that a little saltwater added to a lot of soul can make for a pleasantly well-rounded musical experience.

After refining their songwriting talents at sea, the brothers returned to Maryland's mainland and reunited with long-lost friend and songwriter, Vinnie Garufi to begin a recording project. When Vinnie brought along friends and seasoned musicians Jeff Malcom and Skye Sadowski of the Donegal X-Press to fill out the mix, the brothers knew they had stumbled onto something that might keep them on dry land for quite some time. What resulted was the eclectic and fresh musical experience that became Man Down.

Drawing from such diverse influences as James Taylor, Jack Johnson, and Sublime, Man Down has created a unique blend of folk, rock, and reggae that is making waves on the Maryland music scene. The band recorded their first two releases--Offshore Café (2002) and Lost in the City (2004)--in a two-century old farm house that once served as a rest-stop for important political figures doing business in nearby Washington, D.C. During their recording sessions, Man Down capitalized on the natural acoustics of the old wooden home to create two very soulful and natural sounding albums. Fans are happy to report that their live performances are just like the record —soulful, natural, and energetic.

Man Down is currently playing venues in the Baltimore/Wash. DC area, including such popular spots as the Ram’sHead Tavern and Mick O’Sheas Irish Pub. Members of the band have shared the bill with notable acts like The Saw Doctors, Jah Works, The Graham Colton Band, Black 47, and The Young Dubliners, and have received numerous accolades from Baltimore’s City Paper and New York’s The Irish Voice. Look for Man Down to be mixing it up at one of your favorite spots in the near future.