Singer/Songwriter Mark Henry Ham Releases “Casper” LP
With Mark Henry Ham’s album Casper, there’s a wide amount of ground covered. Clocking in at just under fifty minutes with twelve tracks, Ham tackles the loud and brash sides of the country genre as well as the heartfelt, sweeter sides that often get negated in favor of whatever’s topping the charts. Mark Henry Ham is a man of duality, and Casper is an album fully indebted to this fact. For moments of sky-soaring country-pop, look no further. “Oh Simone” has it in spades. For country songs that pay tribute to Americana and folk through the eyes of the everyday person? That’s here, too, in the title track “Casper.” To say that Mark Henry Ham breathes music might be a bit much, but after hearing Casper, the guy certainly eats and drinks music at the very least.
In addition to the songs mentioned above, Casper features “Dreamin Bout You Again,” another upbeat addition to the album in the vein of The J. Geils Band. It’s a toe-tapping pop hit in the making. “Life Is Like A Movie” sees Ham going through scenarios from his life and comparing them to a variety of genre films and tropes; there’s a doo-wop aesthetic given to the chorus on this one, and it works perfectly.
“Green Light” is a more serious entry, as it inhabits the closest thing I can think of to “country-punk.” The lyrics seem to be about a disgruntled Ham waiting in traffic, falling victim to road rage, but the vibe of the track can be put towards anything standing in your way. “In the Quiet of the Night” changes things up with a sweet ballad, discussing the futility or arguments with those you love. The immediacy of it following “Green Light” has poignancy, as life throws fastballs and curveballs in no sequential order. “Long Way Home” allows Ham to tap into his inner Jerry Garcia, as the song summons the same bouncy nature as the Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey.”
“Whatever Happened to Katie” sees Mark Henry Ham summoning his inner REM, as his vocals and the melody call back to the ‘90s. I wouldn’t be shocked if this song goes on to become a fan favorite or single, as it is an immediate standout on the project for me. “Just Like Before” puts Ham in the headspace of 1960s Greenwich Village as he invokes the emotional timbre of classic folk; it’s an effective track, especially following the more upbeat “Katie.” If you thought you had Mark Henry Ham and Casper figured out by now, though, you hadn’t heard “Be By My Side” yet. Perhaps the most ambitious song on the album, the production excels beyond anything set up thus far.
There’s a levity to the piano and guitar work, primed more towards pop than country, and the brief diversion is a fantastic curveball for Casper’s tracklist. “You” comes in as the album’s penultimate track, and it meshes Ham’s now-revealed keen pop sensibilities with twinkly country. Casper comes to a close with the heartfelt and profound “I Wish I Could See Your Smile Once Again.” The album’s finale acts as an anchor to the rest of Ham’s genre experiments across Casper, and giving the project time to end on such an introspective note will affect listeners for the better. The ambitions from within Casper know no bounds, and Mark Henry Ham sees no sense in setting any up — few things are as inspiring and as toe-tappingly delightful as seeing the man explore genres for just under an hour.