Rhett Miller’s Superfriends: John Marks

rhettmillerlogo100cc2We asked Old 97’s frontman Rhett Miller to guest edit this week, and he pawned it off on a bunch of his famous friends: other musicians, actors, writers and comedians. Well played, Rhett. But you can’t hide behind a self-titled solo album. Rhett Miller (Shout! Factory), a Beatlesque beauty featuring Jon Brion, is out this week.

ellenjewelh510John Marks is a former 60 Minutes producer and the author of Reasons To Believe: One Man’s Journey Among The Evangelicals And The Faith He Left Behind. He is, um, kind of smart. John Marks recommends:

Kings Of Infinite Space by James Hynes
A down-on-his-luck academic with woman problems and a checkered past moves to Lamar, Texas (also known as Austin) and gets a job at a seemingly innocuous place called the Texas Department of General Services. The job should be a shot at a new start in life. The work pays decently. The mail girl is cute and likes to party, but Paul Trilby begins to notice oddities. A corpse appears in a cubicle. There seems to be a secret society at the heart of TexDoGs, as the company acronym has it. And what about those zombies? Before long, our man in Texas discovers that an obnoxious boss may be the least of his problems. James Hynes has written outrageously funny satires about life in academia in 1998’s Publish And Perish and 2002’s The Lecturer’s Tale, but in our current economy, the novel that really has bite is 2005’s Kings Of Infinite Space, a scary, witty thrill ride through the lower depths of the American labor market.

Sea Of Tears by Eilen Jewell
Someone definitely broke this woman’s heart. On song after song, whether the sorrowfully plucky “Rain Roll In” or the mordantly seductive “I’m Gonna Dress In Black” or the seriously chilling “Codeine Arms,” Eilen Jewell makes you feel the contact high of total despair. If Sea Of Tears were just depressing, I wouldn’t bother to mention it, but it’s just the opposite. It’s bracing, like the glass of cold water a friend tosses in your face when you’ve been lying in your bed too long. Jewell is a rock classicist here, her songs summoning echoes of the late 1950s and 1960s, but that voice has the binding force of a pair of silk handcuffs. Songs that might seem familiar in other hands throw you off balance. Also, not be to underestimated, is her band, a cat o’ nine tails led by Jason Beeks on drums and harmony, Jerry Miller on acoustic and steel guitars and Johnny Sciascia on upright bass. Their sound lashes her like a cat on nine tails, and damn if she doesn’t seem to enjoy it.