Mark Duval
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Mark Duval

Band Americana Folk


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"Change in Tune Mark Duval trades electric for eclectic"

Mark Duval trades electric for eclectic
Friday, March 3, 2006
By Mark Wedel
Special to the Gazette
For Mark Duval, less volume means more music.

Duval, of Kalamazoo, will release his first CD, ``Rhythm of the Rustbelt,'' as Mark Duval and the Mule Variations Saturday with a show at the Kraftbrau Brewery.

Duval, 43, grew up in Battle Creek and moved to Kalamazoo in 1980. He formed his first band, The Simians, in 1982.

``At that time, it was a punk band,'' Duval said. ``Then I played in a variety of bands up until the time that my son's mom got pregnant. Then I took about 10 years of playing no music at all.''

He got back into playing two years ago. The band, as before, was electric and loud. But Duval had just entered his 40s. ``And I really was getting tired of the volume. I was having to wear earplugs for rehearsal and gigs and, you know, at my age, I hate to sound like an old guy, but it was really -- I just didn't get it anymore,'' he said. ``I think what happens is, teenage boys get their first electric guitar and amplifier, and they're fascinated by volume. Because everything's about loud and fast at that age. They crank it up, form bands. And then it gets to be a habit.''

There's another way, he realized. Play acoustic, play quieter. ``And when you play quieter, you have to learn how to sing.''

And you have to learn how to play well and make interesting music with decent lyrics -- all needed without the crutch of using volume to cover up the imperfections. Duval formed Mule Variations with Larry Lowis on bass, Scott Dill on drums and a shifting lineup that includes Ian Gorman on banjo, Rachel Flanigan on clarinet, Jay Gavan on guitar and the newest member, Traci Seuss, on harmony vocals. (All will be at Kraftbrau Saturday, with the exception of Flanigan.)

``I've found a really awesome local community of singer/songwriters, people who are making quality music.'' And it's all acoustic music, Duval said. ``I had no clue that even existed. ... I've always played in electric bands.''

It was a way for Duval to challenge himself to get the electric monkey off his back. He wrote about 30 songs in a little over a year. He's worked on improving his voice.

``I'm not a good singer,'' he said, but with practice he got better. He also got confident in writing and singing songs, ``that are both quiet and pretty.''

Mule Variations isn't entirely mellow ballads and folk rock. Duval has a variety of influences -- from Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead to Iggy Pop and Tom Waits. The band name is also the title of Waits' 1999 album. Duval is thinking of changing the name soon for legality's sake.

``I understand he's become very litigious in the past few years,'' he said.

But Waits is one of his major influences. ``What I really appreciate about him is that he does these musical styles that almost nobody else is doing,'' such as Eastern European folk, rumbas, tangos, waltzes, ballads, blues, and experiments in rhythm and instrumentation.

Duval also wanders around in song forms, from waltzes to cha-chas. He avoids just calling his music folk, a genre where ``you tend to be pigeonholed,'' he said. People have told him his songs sound like anything from R.E.M. and Tom Petty to Loudon Wainwright III and Wilco.

The Variations are on Garage Band, a Web community that hosts independent bands and their music, at Visitors can listen to, rate and post reviews of the MP3s. His highest-ranked song, ``Moon,'' reached No. 61 out of 608 songs in the acoustic category, and Duval's has been getting a lot of favorable attention from around the world.

``Middle America is not that into my music, but I get great reviews from the East and West Coasts, and Canada, Australia and the UK. I don't know what to think about that; maybe I need to go to those places.'' - Kalamazoo Gazette March 3, 2006

"CD Review by Lorraine Caron"

“Rhythm of the Rustbelt” is chock full of mature songwriting, wonderfully tasteful arrangements, and naturally pleasing voices. Mark Duval’s songs draw you in, and make listening and pondering the meaning of the songs seem like a most gratifying pastime. Then, when you start singing along, it hits you…“This stuff has it all…it’s genuine AND catchy…thought-provoking AND fun.” And you wonder…“Who IS this guy and where did he come from?”

Mark Duval played with punk bands for many years and sometimes that background is apparent in his gruff delivery, especially on the songs “The Fire” and “Real Men Dig Their Own Graves.” But, make no mistake, this is acoustic roots music all the way.

The moody, evocative “Carnival Girls” hits you with lines like “Every medicine is a poison, every poison is a medicine. It all depends on how much you’re takin’ and how often you take it again.”

“Perfect World” may be the perfect song. With just guitar in the beginning, then voice, then bass and mandolin, the song builds instrumentally as it delivers it’s simple, yet profound message.

The song “Come On Down” feels and sounds almost familiar, even on first listen, and includes a killer banjo part. Throughout the album, cello, violin, percussion and clarinet are used sparingly and with great effect. Harmony singer Traci Seuss is feelin’ it, and her parts add even more substance and soul to the sound.

This album by Kalamazoo singer/songwriter Mark Duval has found a permanent home on Grassroots, WMUK’s locally-produced acoustic music show.
- WMUK 102.1 FM

"Spin and Listen"

What’s New in Local CDs

By Kristi Kates, Northern Express, 6/22/09
Mark Duval and Two-Track Mind / All Night Station

The first thing that really draws the listener in to Duval’s 2009 set is [Nathan Durham’s] saxophone on “Looking for Trouble,” with the sax line serving as a perfect introduction to Duval’s deep, Chris-Isaak-meets-Brian-Setzer vocals.

Duval has definitelyf ound his place with these retro-fied blues/rock/Latin-inspired tracks, and executes them with a confidence that makes even the less standout tracks still appealing and listenable.

“Diggin’ in a Deeper Hole” opens with a train-chugging guitar rhythm, and
partway through the track adds in a tambourine at just the right moment,
emphasizing the song’s chain-gang feel so well that you can almost line up
each tambourine shake with the step of a stumbling prisoner; while “Man of
Means” adds that street-corner saxophone back in to help craft a catchy
melody reminiscent of “Stray Cat Strut.”

Elsewhere on the set, “Livin’ Big” augments Duval’s usual genres with a
welcome smattering of sassy Motown horns; “Song of Love” borrows a little
inspiration from Carlos Santana and also features some sharply animated
stops in the crisp arrangement; and “One Man’s Shadow” is perfectly
evocative of a Spanish radio mystery show or a retro Halloween
celebration, complete with a shuffling beat and spooky, crisp harmonica

What’s compelling about Duval’s work overall is that he brings together
several dissimilar musical genres and makes them work together by
utilizing a connective web of instrumentation, and by not going too far in
any one rhythmic direction so as to completely alienate the others. It’s a
skillful mix and one that many will be looking forward to hearing more
  - Northern Express

"Awards! "Perfect World" wins Folk Track of the Day"

Awards! Track of the Day on 9Aug2005 in Folk
#6 Best Lyrics in Folk, all-time
Best Male Vocals in Folk, week of 25Jul2005
Best Male Vocals in Folk, week of 22Aug2005
Best Production in Folk, week of 25Jul2005
Best Lyrics in Folk, week of 25Jul2005
Best Lyrics in Folk, week of 1Aug2005
Best Lyrics in Folk, week of 15Aug2005
Best Lyrics in Folk, week of 22Aug2005
Best Melody in Folk, week of 25Jul2005
Best Beat in Folk, week of 25Jul2005
Best Mood in Folk, week of 25Jul2005
Best Mood in Folk, week of 1Aug2005

"Awards! "Walk on the Water" wins R & B Track of the Day"

Awards! Track of the Day on 4Aug2005 in Folk Rock
Track of the Day on 19Aug2005 in R&B
#23 Feel Good Track in Folk Rock, all-time
Best Lyrics in Folk Rock, week of 15Aug2005
Best Mood in Folk Rock, week of 1Aug2005
Feel Good Track in Folk Rock, week of 15Aug2005
Feel Good Track in Folk Rock, week of 29Aug2005

"Homegrown Talent: Mark Duval "Rhythm of the Rustbelt""

This debut CD from Kalamazoo's Mark Duval - along with his band, the Mule Variations - feature's Duval's songwriting skills and an Americana folk sound. "The Fire" (with lyrics by Joe Sperti) opens the nine-track album; the guitar has a good feel and goes well with Duval's vocals. "Aaron talked to Bill" is kind of like an episode of Seinfeld: a song "about nothing" that you love. And great words fit the music on "Perfect World." Experiencing Rhythm of the Rustbelt is like sitting around talking with the artist. Catch Duval live with the Mule Variations or as part of acoustic duo Rustbelt (with Traci Seuss, who does some harmony on the CD). -T. Wilson - Revue Magazine, April 2006

"Great CD!"

Mark, I've been listening to your cd (Rhythm of the Rustbelt) and have been stuck on the song Come On Down....I know most artists do not like comparisons to other artists, but the vocal performance reminds me of a group from years ago - Timbuk 3 - something with the harmonies.....and I love it. Really a great record. Sorry, I haven't got around to the other record you sent, I guess I'm really slammed by this earlier record. Anyway, I sure would like to see you live sometime. I get lots of submissions for both Nor East’r Festival and for our house concert series and many times its just another dude with guitar....(I'm not trying to be mean, just my take on things) but this record of yours truly stands up and stands out. I hope we can do something in the near future.
Craig Carrick
Nor East’r Music Festival
Clarkston, Michigan - Craig Carrick, Nor East'r Music Festival

"Review of Two-Track Mind"

Mark Duval’s Two-Track Mind finds him with a five-piece band including Traci Seuss, with whom he often performs as an acoustic duo. Balancing between folk and roots rock, Duval uses his shuffling rhythms and and strong melodies to present a collection of personal and inviting tales for simple musical enjoyment. With beautiful vocal harmony work, easeful guitar picking and a gentle approach to filling up the arrangements, Duval sets the stage for sipping hand-crafted beer in a local brewery, contemplating simple times, pain and pride.
-Ryan Cunningham, Recoil Magazine, March 2008 - Recoil Magazine

"Mark Duval & Two-Track Mind Present a Piece of Americana"

“Rhythm of the Rustbelt is Americana like a cross-country road trip-the soundtrack to a summer sunrise over a dusty, forlorn Route 66. ‘Real Men Dig Their Own Graves’ is a beat-driven, boot-stomper atoned with Duval’s best redition of Tom Waits’ graveled vocals... The album is earthy, candid and nostalgic - everything an Americana album should be.” - Dustin Walsh, Nightlife / Music Writer, On the Town Magazine; Music / Culture Writer, Metro Times; Contributor, Creem Magazine. - Dustin Walsh, Nightlife / Music Writer

"Review of All Night Station"

With a strong infusion of Latin and world rhythms mixed with creative vocal harmony, acoustic singer/songwriter Mark Duval and his four-piece backup band Two-Track Mind bring back the 60’s idea of “folk”, back when everyone did poignant protest songs in three-part harmony. The protest is gone, but singer Traci Seuss’ backup harmonies give a strong sense of authenticity to the whole project, allowing a feeling of actual “grit” to show through, which is sometimes sadly missing from the scene. A welcome addition to the summer’s roster of singer/songwriters touring the US, Duval and Two-Track Mind can be experienced at
-Ryan Cunningham, Recoil Magazine, June 2009 - Recoil Magazine


"Rhythm of the Rustbelt" (March 4, 2006) HeyBurner! Records MDM 101

"Two-Track Mind" (June 2007) HeyBurner! Records
MDM 202

"All-Night Station" (April 2009) Hey Burner! MDM303

Streaming available at

Both albums are getting airplay at these stations:
Top tracks for radio play:
From "Rhythm of the Rustbelt"
Real Men Dig Their Own Graves
Come on Down
The Fire
Aaron Talked to Bill
Carnival Girls

From "Two-Track Mind"
Bed of Nails
This Old Man
Sin Coming On

From "All Night Station"
No Rest for the Wicked
Looking for Trouble
Song of Love
Come to Me
Diggin in a Deeper Hole
What You Want
Man of Means
Livin Big

Downloads available at the ITunes Music Store.



In the spring of 2006, Mark Duval emerged from a 10-year hibernation to release "Rhythm of the Rustbelt", his brilliant debut, described by reviewer Dustin Walsh of Creem Magazine as "...the soundtrack to a summer sunrise over a dusty, forlorn Route 66.... a beat-driven, boot stomper atoned with Duval's best rendition of Waits graveled vocals. "

His songwriting versatility takes the listener from haunted landscapes of brooding fingerstyle folk to rhythm-driven roots rock social commentary, shuffling blues riffs and latin grooves that show off his skills as a rhythm guitarist.

His follow-up cd, "Two-Track Mind (2007) was nominated for "best new folk album of 2207" by radio station WYCE of Grand Rapids.

The production is sparse earthy, organic and intimate, alternating between folk and roots rock, and using banjo, violin, cello, organ, harmonica, trumpet, slide guitar and beautiful vocal harmonies to create a unique atmosphere for each song. Both albums were engineered and produced by Ian Gorman, who has become one of the most sought-after producers in the Michigan folk music scene.

Mark performs his music regionally in 2 different configurations:

Mark Duval & Traci Seuss perform Mark's folk ballads in "listening room" concerts. Traci's beautiful vocal harmonies bring Mark's melodies to life, and they are often backed up by Bill Caskey on upright bass and Cori Somers on violin.

Mark Duval & Two-Track Mind perform regionally in bar venues and festivals as a 5-piece rock band, centered around Mark's acoustic guitar with drums, bass, slide guitar, trumpet, and saxophone, playing sets of rhythm-driven roots, grooves and blues that keep the dance floor crowded.