Mark Dignam is a Dublin-born singer-songwriter who nowadays calls Pittsburgh home. Box Heart Man is his fourth full-length — his first for Royal Oak imprint Times Beach — and it displays his thoughtful, smart lyrics over a pop-rock and folk-derived set featuring the talents of local faves Ethan Daniel Davidson, Audra Kubat and Gold Cash Gold’s Eric Hoegemeyer, the latter playing “way cool ’tronics.” Dignam proves his contemporary folk mettle with both the lilting, evocative “Ghosts” and the live right message of “Build.” “Don’t waste time trying to dream a better ending,” he counsels, because “Life’s too short.” His lyrics throughout have the folksinger’s yen for plainspoken power, but he isn’t a wooden-stool troubadour, singing aching tales to coffeehouse souls. The bar-band thrill “Fable” crosses a Beatles bass-line with Elvis Costello & the Attractions’ “Pump it Up,” and the acoustic rocker “Jane” — “Heard you married that crazy bastard/ He running around all plastered …?” — paints a real sense of longing inside its self-deprecation and modern cynicism. There are musical references to everything from Billy Bragg and the Frames to the melodrama of Live, but it always comes back to the lyrics with Dignam, and his perceptiveness makes Box Heart Man his own.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.