Stars for Eyes by Mark Huff

Stars for Eyes is easily Mark Huff’s most accessible effort yet. It’s a set of songs that shows him making a stunning turn, from the darker, drier material that populated his earlier albums to a rich and riveting sound laden with melodies that strike a solid and substantial first impression. At the same time, Huff’s ability to vary his moods and keep a cohesive course throughout provides him with additional accreditation and makes this a must-hear album for both newcomers and longtime admirers alike.

The main reason for this shift in stance is Huff’s decision to veer from the more introspective fare of his previous outings to a sound that seems intent on pulling the listener in and making it all but impossible not to get caught up in its emotive undercurrents. The inclusion of Leonard Cohen’s “Almost Like the Blues” and his own self-pitying “I Know You Don’t Want My Love” notwithstanding, this is a surprisingly ebullient set overall. Surprising, because on songs such as “Prison Door,” “God in Geography” and “Nightingale,” there’s no escaping the impression that Huff is attempting to widen his reach, even if it’s through a full-on pop pose. Likewise, the sweeping harmonies of “Heart Beating Without You,” the easy glide of “Stars for Eyes” and the gentle sway accorded “Carolina Blue” create an allure and impression that all but begs instant attraction.

For the most part, Huff adapts the guise of folksy troubadour, thanks in large part to the organic arrangements and a casual stride that moots any over reliance on grit or gravitas. Consequently, he’s to be applauded for preserving his conviction while avoiding any apparent temptation to sound weary or withdrawn. As a result, Stars for Eyes is as illuminating as the title suggests, a set of songs that shine brightly indeed.