In 2000, Mark began to gravitate back to his acoustic roots and the studio became his classroom. After making a decision to pursue a solo career, Mark took all of the lessons that he had learned over the last 25 years and began constructing his solo show. The premise was to develop an act that was as hard hitting as the band, but all in a one man show.
The show includes many great traditional Delta Blues numbers with a Chicago Blues slant that transforms each tune into a “tour de force”. Included are: the blazing flat-picking techniques that grabbed audiences in Mark’s Bluegrass days, the hot slide guitar playing that creates a mood and timbre change in each set and the showmanship that was developed from 25 years of experience as a band “Front Man”. These components combined with the sense of a sharp businessman who possesses a keen understanding of the venue goals and objectives, assures a happy client regardless of the situation.
The band ranged anywhere from 3 to 10 pieces on a given night. Regardless of the situation, Mark managed the band, the crowd, and all aspects of the gig, making sure
that the crowd and club owner received more than their money’s worth for the night. Showmanship, taste, professionalism and great music were the adjectives that club owners cited over and over as reasons to book the band in a regular rotation.
After returning to the East Coast, Mark dug deeper into the blues playing electric guitar and listening to Johnny Winter, Roy Buchannan, Albert King and many others. When he was playing progressive Newgrass, his style had the influence of the blues. Now delving into the blues, his playing has the razors edge and speed that was developed from years of flat-picking. The combination of the lightning fast bluegrass style and his soulful blues playing are the key components of Mark’s style today.
In the late 1980s, Mark started his own Chicago style Blues band, The Lonesome Strangers. The band was a staple on the New England club circuit for over a dozen years. The band worked all of the clubs due to Mark’s ability to transform the band to adapt to any venue. Many of the gigs were played as a “power trio” with Mark singing and filling the band out with scorching electric Blues guitar. Other times, the band included a keyboard player and / or the addition of the Newport Navy Band Horn Section.
Mark T. Small has been playing music for over 40 years. In his early teens he began
listening to Old Time Music. He learned to play fiddle tunes on the guitar in the styles of Doc Watson and Norman Blake and also learned to play the Dobro. In 1981, this music took Mark to Indiana to play and record with a 5 piece Newgrass Band called The Brown County Band. At the same time, Mark was playing harmonica and listening to the likes of Junior Wells and Charlie Musselwhite.