My song "The Right to Choose" was one of three finalists in an ACLU contest. "Raindrops from Heaven" was a semifinalist in the Dallas Songwriters Contest, placed as a semi-finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest and has been named as a finalist in the International Category of the Australian Songwriters Association contest.
I've been lucky enough to have one of my songs, Hill of Death, finish as a semi-finalist in the Dallas Songwriters Association 2011 Songwriting Contest, honorable mention in the West Coast Songwriters International Song Contest 2011, and first runner-up in Gary Allen's (Charlie Daniels Band/JJ Cale) Best New Song In The World competition. My cowboy ballad, The Butterfly and the Rose, was named as a semifinalist in The UK Songwriting Contest, while two others (Roots and The Day After) received Commended Entries in that contest. My song "I Wish I'd Known" was one of three finalists in an ACLU songwriting contest. "Hill of Death" was selected for play on Pongid Radio.
Mark Courtney and Lauren Michaels are a recent pairing and “Desert Blend: Songs From Our Heart” is their debut release, a six-track EP of love songs, with a streak of melancholy at its heart. That they commence the collection with “That Lonesome Look of Sadness” is a clear indication of things to come, certainly for the first half of the collection, though neither the song in question nor the material that follows can in any way be described as maudlin. It’s a song written and sung by Courtney, and the easiest point of reference would be the broke-down storytelling of Townes van Zandt, which should always be encouraged.
On the second track “Sugar”, composed and sung by Michaels, a tale is told of betrayal and despair, and together with the aforementioned opening track and the marginally less intense “All of My Jeans”, the three songs are referred to as their “heartbreak trilogy”.
On the remaining tracks, things are a little more upbeat and positive. “Heart to Heart” is a salutation to love in its simplest form, and Courtney’s “You Seemed So Young to Me” is an old style country ballad, and quite affecting. They conclude with “Love Never Changes”, a celebration of the durability of love, and with the duo singing in harmony, it’s a fitting way to close proceedings.
Lauren Michels and Mark Courtney from the group Desert Bend performed during the rainbow-making event. (Page A03)