Miko Marks’ EP — a confrontation with outmoded country normatives — might be even better than her exceptional LP debut.
After Music Row had silenced her extraordinary voice for years, Miko Marks has spent 2021 making up for lost time. Backed by her ace band, The Resurrectors, Marks had already released one of the year’s finest country albums, Our Country, back in the Spring, and now she’s followed that up just a few months later with an extended play that might be even better. In giving the EP the title Race Records, Marks is speaking to the music industry’s long history of gatekeeping that has reinforced the idea — one that’s been proven countless times over by both quantitative data and individual case studies like Marks’ own — that artists of color are unwelcome in particular spaces. The six-song EP makes a definitive case that “race records” are “country records,” and vice versa, thanks to Marks’ deep understanding of genre idioms and her talent in performing so many styles of country music with conviction.
Her reinvention of the standard, “Tennessee Waltz,” into a rockabilly banger falls perfectly in line with country music’s history of disguising songs of heartbreak as uptempo ditties, and Marks’ nuanced vocal turn conveys the emotional depths of that song’s well-known narrative in a new and effective way. Lead single “Long Journey Home” is a cover of a Monroe Brothers song that debuted all the way back in 1936, and Marks’ and The Resurrectors keep their arrangement rooted in traditional instrumentation and close harmonies, while Marks’ lead vocal turn is the joyful sound of an artist who is grateful that her voice is finally being heard. Other songs that Marks redubs “race records” include perfectly-selected cuts by The Carter Family and Creedence Clearwater Revival: Again, Marks is making an incontrovertible point that she understands exactly how broad “country music” is, and, with Race Records, she’s proving that she performs country music better than anyone else in 2021, and sending a powerful message that she’s opening the gates for other artists of color to stake their own claims, too.
Published as part of Album Roundup — October 2021 | Part 3.