Student releases CD

Amber Sigman

He casually walked on the handmade wooden stage wearing a denim shirt, blue jeans and hiking boots. He picked up his guitar and began to sing an old Johnny Cash song.

Elizabethtown senior Mark Melloan played his first concert at Hidden River Stage in Horse Cave Saturday night to celebrate the release of his recent album – ‘The Shadowlands.’

His album features acclaimed banjo player Bela Fleck and dobro player Curtis Burch whose work includes the ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ soundtrack.

Melloan strummed away on his guitar as he sang Cash and Beatles tunes along with a more mellow version of the classic bluegrass song ‘Fox on the Run.’

Also on the song list were many of his newly released tunes accompanied by the sounds of the mandolin, fiddle, dobro, upright bass and drums.

The band played in an outdoor setting surrounded by limestone and green trees, while the audience listened contentedly as they sat on their old camping chairs. Some listeners swayed their heads or tapped their feet as the music distracted their attention from the occasional nipping mosquito.

After the concert ended, Burch, of Bowling Green, put down his shiny dobro and exited stage left to mingle with friends.

He could be spotted with his white hair, spectacles and Hawaiian shirt – a friendly man who is an admitted supporter of young musicians.

“I think he’s the next James Taylor,” Burch said of Melloan. “He’s a very talented singer, songwriter and musician.”

Melloan discovered his passion for music at age 10 when his father handed him a Gibson guitar. He began writing ‘two-line ditties’ to go along with his guitar rifts.

Since then, Melloan has enjoyed playing medleys for friends and family on back porches or in the comfort of a living room.

He enjoys playing in these intimate environments the most.

But performing for unfamiliar faces is also an exciting experience for this 21-year-old musician.

“It’s great to know that in some sense you are connecting to 200 people,” Melloan said of Saturday’s show.

However, he admitted that it is a little intimidating at first.

“It’s a scary thing to try to measure up to people’s expectations when you’re on the stage instead of sitting across the porch,” Melloan said.

His accomplishments include more than just singing, guitar playing and songwriting. He has a full academic scholarship from Western funding his double major in English and religious studies.

Graduate school may be in the near future for Melloan depending on the outcome of his music career. However, his friends seem to have a lot of faith in Melloan’s prospects as a musician.

“It’s just a matter of time before everybody knows his name,” Franklin senior Eric Drake said. “And he’s the kind of person that won’t forget the people who believed in him from the very beginning.”

Friends and family aren’t the only ones who enjoy Melloan’s music.

“He is surrounded by some excellent musicians and he is an excellent songwriter,” said Jeff Rogers, of Louisville.

Melloan described his music as a mixture of Nickel Creek, Ben Harper and Cash. He said Gillian Welch is his most influential songwriter.

As a college freshman, Melloan began writing a song a day. Although ninety percent were no good, he said it helped hone his craft.

“Now I’ve got more comfort with my songwriting and also what my songs should do,” he said.

“Courthouse Rock” is a song featured on his new album, which he was inspired to write after rock-climbing at Red River Gorge.

“And I’m not a rock-climber at all,” Melloan said. “It literally put the fear of God in me.”

The song became a tribute to Vietnam, and is about two brothers who experienced fear after scaling cliffs.

Later the brothers experienced that same fear when they were sent to Vietnam. After the two were killed in battle, their dog tags were ironically found on Courthouse Rock, showing that it was a powerful place.

Melloan said nothing in particular inspires his music; it comes naturally.

The young musician knew he was well received by the audience after he thanked them for coming, but he didn’t realize how well.

“I didn’t expect a standing ovation,” Melloan said. “It was a nice surprise.”