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Mark Pickerel: One Last Seduction

Breaking up is hard to do, especially if the party being rejected is as persuasive as Mark Pickerel in "Let Me Down Easy." Not a plea so much as a last seduction — a request for "a long fadeout of my favorite song" — it's an irresistible turning of the tables that slinks from a slow dance into a hallelujah climax.

"Let me down easy, explain it from the start / We've got all night for you to break my heart," Pickerel purrs, in a rich baritone that's a perfect blend of confidence, longing, and vulnerability. Meanwhile, his band Praying Hands (guitarist Johnny Sangster, Young Fresh Fellows bassist Jim Sangster, and former Posies drummer Mike Musburger) creates an atmosphere that's sly, seductive, and just a little dangerous. The song may close the curtain before the action takes place, but the ending is crystal-clear.

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Barbara Mitchell