Mark Arshak Band
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Mark Arshak Band

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"Mark Arshak - Unchained: A Native Son Takes up the Blues Challenge in Memphis"

Mark Arshak not only plays the blues, he lives them. Five years ago he walked away from his secure union contracting job to pursue his dream of being a full time musician. What with a wife and two kids and the competitive nature of the music industry, one would think Arshak might have made a mistake. But Arshak is a blues man and the only mistake a blues man makes is not following his heart.
See, every time the hammer hits the nail, a blues man knows he should be striking the next chord instead. Each day that a blues man straps on his tool pouch he knows that the only tool he should be strapping on is his guitar. Playing the blues isn’t a choice – it is a calling – and Mark Arshak has been called.

DRAFTED TO COMPETE
Arshak, a resident of southeastern Michigan near Jackson, has been making a name for himself at Northern Michigan blues clubs over the past several years. So much so that members of the Mid/North Blues Society asked him to compete in their annual blues competition this past September.
At stake, a coveted spot in the International Blues Challenge this February in Memphis where the hottest “unsigned” blues bands from around the world will compete for cash and a recording contract. Blues greats Larry Garner, Tommy Castro and Susan Tedeschi were all discovered at that Challenge.
Competing against seven other bands from Michigan this year, The Mark Arshak Band not only won the regional competition but they impressed long-time blues music photographer David Fox, who served as chief judge of the competition.
“All the bands were great, but Arshak and his band performed at a level necessary to win at the next level,” said Fox. “I expect them to do quite well; they definitely have what it takes to be a big time blues band.”
The road to Memphis starts in Traverse City. The Mark Arshak Band will perform a “Celebration Concert” to help raise funds to support the band’s trip with a “Going To Memphis” show this Friday, November 19 at Streeters’ Ground Zero Nightclub.

TWO-TIMER
This will be Arshak’s second trip to the International Blues Challenge. A few years back he won the Ohio regional qualifier and headed to Memphis. While he didn’t win overall, he doesn’t feel like he lost either.
“Look, there are 90 bands and only one is going to win,” said Arshak. “I went down with the idea that I was going to get my name out there, make some contacts, line up some gigs. As bands lost they packed in and went home. Not me. When I didn’t make it to the final round I walked around Beale Street handing out my CD.”
It paid off as Arshak has had regular gigs at the famed King’s Palace in Memphis every year since. This year’s approach will be the same as the last time. Arshak is going down to win and plans to score even if he doesn’t take the top prize.
“Tammy Castro didn’t win it, but now he is at the top of the heap in the blues world,” said Arshak. “We are going to make a DVD of our performance at Streeters. We have a major production company coming in with three cameras and I am going to pass that DVD out to as many people as possible.”
Arshak plays a hard drivin’ Texas meets Chicago via the Mississippi Delta-style blues. Listen to the surface of Arshak’s guitar playing and it is obvious that Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Kings (Albert and BB), along with Albert Collins have all influenced his playing.
A deeper listen and one will hear Arshak’s Detroit rock guitar influences. The Detroit in him comes from growing up during the exploding late ’60s Motor City rock scene. The blues in him comes from when his family moved to Roscommon when he was 15.

ROSCOMMON BLUES
“It was hard; I had a band, friends and there was all this great music around me in Detroit,” said Arshak. “But the economy was tight and my father, who had a Ph.D, had to settle for a job teaching English at Kirtland Community College. I went from hippies and hard rock back into time. It was like visiting Happy Days.”
Arshak didn’t enjoy his days in Roscommon and spent his time in his room honing his guitar skills. He formed a rock band in his garage, but his band mates were not serious. So after graduating from high school he grabbed his guitar, put up his thumb on I-75 and ended up in Texas where he worked construction jobs and hung out in blues clubs. Eventually, he headed west to California but realized he missed the Midwest, so he landed a job as a deckhand working the tugboat system on the Mississippi River.
“I brought my guitar and harmonica with me on the boats and practiced every chance I got,” said Arshak. “I learned rock and roll in Detroit but it was in the south where I learned to play to blues.”
Tiring of the tugboat scene and longing to start a band, Arshak returned to Michigan to form the King Snakes in 1981. The band headquartered in Traverse City where they were regulars at Union Street. They featured a two-guitar/two-harmonica attack featuring a Little Walter and Muddy Waters Chicago blues sound. But live music was struggling in those days and while the band was popular at blues clubs around the state, money was tight.

BACK TO TUGBOATS
“I had to hock my amp to pay bills, and without equipment I couldn’t perform, so I headed back to the tugboats,” said Arshak. “In 1989 I took a skilled trades construction job in the Detroit area and started playing with bands on the weekends. A little over five years ago I said to myself, ‘Hey Mark, you ain’t getting any younger – it is now or never for this music thing.’ So I quit and started working at my music full time.”
So, has it been worth it?
“I would be lying if I said that there haven’t been a lot of disappointments and a plenty of stress along the way,” said Arshak. “My family has had to go without a lot of things by having a father and husband who is a musician on the road all the time. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. Call me after February 5, 2005 and it might have all been really worth it.”
Win, lose or draw, when Mark Arshak hits Memphis, he has already won. Arshak has the one quality that lacks in many who possess musical talent: “a positive attitude.” While many bitch and moan in this business about how they are more talented than someone who has made it, Arshak doesn’t. He keeps working hard and doesn’t complain or compare. He doesn’t have to because he’s got the goods. Now he just needs the break.

Help The Mark Arshak Band get that break by attending the “Going to Memphis Celebration Concert” Friday at Streeters’ Ground Zero Nightclub. Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 at the door. Doors open at 6 p.m. with a special happy hour and music starts at 7 p.m. with several area blues musicians coming to offer their support before Arshak and his band hit the stage. Call Streeters for additional information or tickets at (231) 932-1300. Arshak will also perform Thursday, November 18 at Union Street Station and Saturday at the Williamsburg Theater for a special concert to benefit the Boys & Girls Club.
- Northern Express- Rick Coates


"Mark Arshak Rocks The Attic!"

Mark Arshak really shook the rafters at The Attic when he played for the Detroit Blues Society last month. True to the title of his debut C.D., "Natural Born Blueser", Mark has a real feel for the blues and he can make you feel them!
A dynamic guitarist and harp player, he's not just your run-of-the-mill guitar slinger. He's definately something special and saturated with the blues.
The Mark Arshak Band offered up some originals written by Mark. "Rouge River Rocker" is a rockin' blues and "Baby How You Do" is a jump blues. Their cover of Albert King's "Crosscut Saw" and a bluesy take on Santana's "Oye Como Va" showed his versatility.
- Blues Notes - Charles Jones / V.P. Detroit Blues Society


"Blues Artists Bring Their Magic To Aggie's Friday"

"Natural Born Blueser" is the title of the debut C.D. by the Mark Arshak Band.
How appropriate.
Because Arshak cranks out the feel-it down-to there blues and smokey rhythms, wrapped around some wicked funk and soul, like he was born to.
Throw in bass man Kevin Gall and drummer Rob Mulvaney to complete the trio that forgoes glitz for class with a nitty-gritty, play-it-like-you-mean-it approach.
Cuts like"River Boat Blues", "Rain On My Window" and the title track perhaps best showcase just how down-and-dirty-and-funky this trio can get. If you don't feel like getting up and dancing to "Natural Born Blueser"- or at least work up a little toe-tappin'- you better have your pulse checked! - Jackson Citizen Patriot - Dave Hoger


"No Overnight Sensation"

He's no overnight sensation, but Detroit native Mark Arshak has gotten his blues stripes the old fashioned way - he's earned them. What you get with this performer is a dose of real deal two-fisted blues from a gifted electric guitarist and vocalist who heads one of the best roots of American music trios to hit Detroit in quite sometime.
It didn't happen overnight for Mark Arshak. Perfecting his take on the blues has had a lot to do with the company he has kept along the way.
As a teenager he discovered the Alan Lomax Library of Congress field recordings of early blues artists, then traveled south where he absorbed the southern sounds of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. He got a job as a deckhand aboard a Mississippi river boat where he helped pass the time singing and picking Johnny Cash songs on his guitar for the captain and crew.
When he moved backed to Michigan he jammed with legendary artits like James Cotton and Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater. "They would come through a club in Traverse City where I was working at the time". Arshak said "I sort of took it for granted, but these cats were and still are some of the finest living legends of this music. They accepted me and helped me start to get it right...".
- The Monitor - Robert Delaney


"Mark Arshak "Live At The Barley""

"Live At The Barley" is not a fancy production with a big marketing budget behind it. But it is a very effective calling card for someone who was not that long ago a new kid on the block. In a short period of time he has become a Motor City staple at some of the best blues clubs around in one of the best blues cities around. Mark Arshak has listened to his share of Alberts and Kings. To prove the point he lays down these three opening tracks in a row. "Black Cat Bone" (Albert Collins), "Nothin' But The Blues" (B.B.King) and "Born Under A Bad Sign' (Albert King). If you're gonna be a blues man, why not cut heads with the best, at least on a cosmic level.
Sure, it's about hitting the right notes in places where lesser players don't even have places. But there's still more to it than that. It's also about tone and control. The way you hold your pick and strike the strings. Don't rely on a bunch of footpedals plugged into God knows where, make the guitar do the work. Work your fingers to the bone, and buddy, someday you might make something of yourself, you dig? Well that's already started to happen. He's already paid his share of dues. Don't let his youthful appearance fool you. Livin' the blues is a life long process. Mark Arshak is out to show the world with his debut self-produced CD, that it's more than simply "have guitar will travel." He's out to demonstrate that he has the rare ability to make these same old blues sound fresh and new.
It is clear by this boy's tone that he has spent a whole lotta time in the woodshed and now he's ready to spin a little magic. It's all very spontaneous, recorded live right out of the barrel. But you know it works when the crowd is with you- there's no foolin' with someting that real. We're talking essential blues here. There ain't no canned applause off the beaten path juke joint. What you see is what you get and Mark is up to the task, it's a natural fact. These blues are spontaneous and he knows how to arrange as he goes, keeping it fresh and unexpected. Old war horses become invigorated on the spot, the way Louisiana Red likes to play his blues. It will never happen the same way twice. With a piece of wood and his vintage Fender amp, technology that speaks of the middle of the last century, Mark Arshak is winning this hometown crowd over. This CD has some nice blues, some real nice blues.
"Live At The Barley" is blues like it's meant to be. But just when you thought you knew him by his live club performance, he pulls a switcheroo and moves over to the studio tracks. And holy cow, after a few adjustments, he settles into some super smooth billion-dollar slide. Just like the Kentucky Derby, he's off and running . It's almost scary the way he changes horses and it shows that he's more than a local or a regional threat, this boy could be nationwide. His rough-hewn off-the-cuff whispery vocals increasingly play more than a secondary role. You've got to own this CD to believe it. Mark Arshak clearly has what it takes. Club owners need to know that he has major label appeal! - Big City Blues - George Seedorff


"Show reviews- Mark Arshak -Arts Beats & Eats"

Every year Pontiac Arts, Beats & Eats gets bigger, devours more territory, hires more security to put up more barricades to round up and corral more people as it gains popularity. The crowds are almost unbearable now. I think the festival could suffer from it's own success.
I went by the booze-sponsers stage which I dubbed "the blue stage" as most of the bands were blues or blues/jazz bands. There Mark Arshak played some of the best Stevie Ray Vaughn inspired blues I've heard. Wearing a zebra-striped shirt & matching cowboy hat and playing a blonde fender guitar, Arshak produced some of the loudest, crankiest blues rock solos.
Here's an entertainer who knows how to work an audience. He jumped off-stage, and walked about the audience as he continued to play guitar, dancing a boogie with some ladies up front. He stood on rickety folding chairs, and he made his guitar "talk" to a pretty woman who sassed right back. He ran up to a guy and played some super hot licks. The guy was so flustered and embarrassed,looking anywhere except straight at the guitar-in-crotch directly in front of him.
Then Arshak was butt-bumping a dancer as he inserted his guitar between her legs and continued playing. He high-fived an old man digging to the music, shook my hand, tried to convince a couple who were leaving to stay, and hopped back on stage. By this time the audience was so awestruck by his showmanship that the sound guy flashed a sign to "keep playing". So Arshak added another half-hour to his set.
He picked up a black Fender and a metal slide that he used for more straight ahead rock songs. Then played"Nothing Rocks like Red Wing Hockey", a song he entered and won as part of a Red Wing hockey theme contest. He has performed the song at Joe Lewis Arena many times since. Another song had my favorite lyric:"These suicide blues are killing me."
His last few songs featured screaming slide guitar(think George Thorogood on speed) creating a wash of metal on metal twang. By the time he was finished he had exhausted his audience.
I went back to the Phoenix Amphitheater to see Live (band), but after Arshak they just seemed weak, pale and anti-climatic. So i cut out. Arshak plays all over the state, at casinos and bars and nearly every blues festival the area has to offer. If you love blues and have the chance to see Mark Arshak live, do so! - JAM RAG by Allen Salyer


Discography

NATURAL BORN BLUESER - '97
LIVE AT THE BARLEY - '99
MEAN WOMAN BLUES - '01
BOOTLEG BLUES - '03
THE LONER - '05
BAMBOO VOODOO - '08
RAMBLIN' ON - '11

Photos

Bio

MARK ARSHAK- Singer, songwriter, musician and entertainer has worked across the country and overseas, performing a unique blend of originals, and original takes on classic songs from a variety of genres from the '40's, 50's & 60's.
sound.

KEVIN GALL is simply the nicest guy off stage who transforms into the toughest man who ever played bass- knowing when to drive a tune and when to lay low. Superb musicianship and dynamics.

MIKE DRAFFEN- Pocket drummer with taste, precision, dynamics and showmanship everything you would want from a drummer. He also has toured all over the country, studied music at Eastern Michigan University who loves and incorporates all types of influences into his performance.

This outfit pays dues, plays blues, and gets down to the roots of rock and roll. A pleasure to the senses. Crowd pleasers who love what they do and feed off of the energy as they in turn give it .

Playing shows at roadhouses, honky tonks, corporate clubs, festival stages and backyard barbeques, Mark and his band have performed at many of the top venues including The Rivera Theatre & Legends- Chicago, Fifth Avenue - Detroit, B.B. Kings and Rum Boogie - Memphis, Fat Fish Blue - Cleveland and Joe's Crab Shack -Florida.
They have also performed and headlined at over 30 festivals including The Arts, Beats & Eats Festival- Detroit, The Mississippi Muddy Waters Festival- Illinois, The Madison Blues Festival - Wisconsin, Memphis in May Festival- Memphis, and Red White And Blues Fest- Ohio.