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Warts and all: the raw 'n' dirty stew from the British master of the genre.
Held in high esteem since his day as a leader of THE KILLING FLOOR, Mick Clarke has never stopped playing, with his own band or solo, or even when a string broke, as on "Woodsman", the closing track on this album. Hence the "rambunctious" part of its title - the blues aren't meant to be polished, after all, as the opener "Cheap" states - with the "experiment" element joining in from the veteran's current MO: the guitarist called the shot to drummer Russell Chaney with no prior rehearsal which, intuition at play, resulted in grand spontaneity. Clarke cut some agnail while adding a bit of bass at the postproduction stage, yet the wayward spirit reigns all over the dozen tracks on offer.
It hangs well in the Chicago blues tradition, Dangerous Dave Newman wailing on his harp, even though "Groundhog Man" harks back to the Delta's slide with a slice of Diddley beat. But if "Old Bones" rattles its distorted heavy riff with a modern, Jack White-approved edge, the sadness of "Something Wrong" could have been well coated in an orchestral sweep. On the other side of emotional spectrum, "Shake That Boogie" and the instrumental "Go Go Freddie" are irresistible feet-tappers, so the only smooth thing there should be the floor where the rug has been cut, while "Slipaway" thrashes its hook in the equally infectious, if moderate, manner. The album bursts with a youthful energy: the experiment proved to be successful.
Blues Matters Magazine
Veteran of the British Blues scene for many decades Clarke has produced an album of stripped down, raw, rough and ready Blues which was recorded in, mostly, first takes. The title and feel of opening track 'Cheap' sums up the philosophy of this spontaneous sounding album and the lyric states the case admirably - "I ain't lookin' at the label, I ain't worryin' bout the quality". There are a few glitches along the way but everything is left in - even a broken string! Drummer Russell Chaney copes well with this minimalist, no frills, approach and Dangerous Dave Newman added some harp to the finished tracks. Clarke was persuaded to add some bottom end so bought himself a cheap bass guitar and added it himself in deliberately clunky style. 'Groundhog Man' features a stomping Bo Diddley beat, abrasive slide guitar and distorted harp work. Great stuff! 'Shake That Boogie' does what it says on the tin with Clarke taking no prisoners with his fierce slide guitar. The pace relents for a moment with the perfunctory slow Blues 'Twenty Miles' but a distorted, heavy, rumbling riff introduces 'Old Bones' a rocker which ZZ Top would approve of.
A touch of garage rock features on 'Slipaway' a steady paced rocker that thrashes away at an insistent hook. The instrumental 'Go Go Freddie' is a toe-tapping tribute to Freddie King which speeds along furiously as Clarke's guitar
duels with Newman's harp. I think Clarke won. This gutbucket album closes with the chaotic and rousing 'Woodsman' where Clarke ploughs on with five strings and also hits the pick up switch a few times randomly changing tones and switching off his corruscating slide guitar completely at one point as Dangerous Dave wails furiously and Chaney thrashes his kit within an inch of it's life. A mess -well yes but also incredibly exciting. as they thrash to a mutual climax. The dictionary definition of rambunctious is "boisterous and disorderly - difficult to control" and that certainly sums up this album.
This will serve to revitalise any jaded palate and is thoroughly recommended.
Blues in Britain Magazine
Mick's latest album saw him go into the studio with just a drummer and some ideas, and this CD is the result. Old mate "Dangerous" Dave Newman added harp to about half the tracks and Mick himself added some bass guitar. As well as a clutch of new songs Mick revisits a few of his old tunes such as "Slipaway" "Cheap" and "I Should've Waited". The overall sound is rough and ready, raw rocking blues (lovely stuff!).
The CD opens with the above mentioned "Cheap" which has a slinky, swampy feel and some nice messy guitar. "Poor Day" has blasting harp from Dave and gutbucket guitar from Mick, a goodie. "Groundhog Man" has a Bo Diddley-ish beat with harp and slide guitar and the whole thing pushed along by the drums, another really good track. The old song "Shake That Boogie" (from the "Rock Me" album I think) is given a good seeing to with great harp and equally good, messy slide guitar, a storming track! Things slow down for "Twenty Miles" which features more good guitar. the instrumental "Go Go Freddie" rattles along with again both harp and guitar starring. The slow blues "Something's Wrong" is a moody number with excellent guitar, another cracking track. There's a walking bass line to "I Should've Waited" with harp and some fine gritty guitar. The CD closes with some heads down boogie on "Woodsman".
This is good unruly, rocking blues. Mick, as usual plays some great guitar and Dave adds some blasting harp, which fits well with the style here. A "mention in dispatches" for Russell Chaney on the drums; he holds it all together and provides the required propulsion on the up-tempo numbers. All round this is a rollicking good CD that deserves your attention. As always, Mick provides good value for money.
Singer and guitar player Mick Clarke has decided not to include a bass player in this new album and set himself a programmed instrument. Only backed by Russell Chaney on drums and an harmonica player called Dangerous Dave Newman in some cuts, Mick has produced a well done album, intense but at the same time unpretentious, with no flamboyant decoration, full of good intentions and commitment for what they are doing. The album may satisfy or not but what is undeniable is Mick Clarke does his best in this new collection of twelve own songs. For many English fans Clarke is called to become the new Rory Gallaher but in my opinion it is daring to say it, as both musicians keep huge differences in sound, concept, technique, phrasing and blues spirit, although the true thing is there are different opinions and tastes and all deserve respect. If you liked his previous cds, or you already are Mick Clarke's fans, then I'm sure this "The Rambunctious Blues Experiment" will satisfy all the expectations you have placed on him. VERY GOOD.
Blues Blast Magazine
According to the scientific method, there are five parts to any experiment: a hypothesis, prediction, independent variable, dependent variable, and conclusion. What would a �blues experiment� look like? Let�s try one on a British veteran Mick Clarke and �The Rambunctious Blues Experiment,� released in 2011. Hypothesis: This album will be entertaining to fans of blues and blues rock, whatever their geographical location. Prediction: The hypothesis will be soundly proven. Independent variable: Clarke presents twelve original songs, each with their own distinct properties. Dependent variable: The factor being measured here, entertainment value, is highly subjective and relies upon the personal preferences of each listener. Taking a look at three particular songs, we can clearly gauge the musical expertise of Clarke, Dangerous Dave Newman on harmonica, and Russell Chaney on drums (additional bass, keyboards, and drums were programmed by Mick Clarke):
Track 01: �Cheap�-- �Some people like to brag a lot at the expense of blues they got. Cheap don�t worry me. I am looking at love--I ain�t worried about the quality�.� Right from the start, Clarke lays his objective on the line. One could easily substitute another word for �love� and realize the true nature of for what he�s searching, but certain down-and-outers can relate. Clarke�s gruff vocals are spoken-sung (throughout the CD), so the guitar hook on this song is its catchiest feature that will stick in fans� heads whether they consider themselves �Cheap� or not!
Track 02: �Poor Day�--Continuing the theme of monetary difficulty is the second track on this album, a stunning piece of slow blues: �I ain�t got time to talk with you. Money�s tight; I�ve got things to do. It�s going to be a poor day, poor day, and that�s no lie.� One gets the feeling that Mick doesn�t only mean �poor� in a financial sense. Dangerous Dave Newman�s harmonica wails in distress, adding emphasis to the gritty guitar solo in the middle.
Track 11: �I Should�ve Waited�--Sometimes, people�s mouths kick into high gear before their brain shifts into first. The result is the subject of this rueful ballad: �I should have stood back and hung around--shouldn�t have let my fool self down!� Our narrator leaves it up to blues fans to imagine the situation (bar fight? Lovers� quarrel? Mouthing off to the boss? All of the above?) Regardless, he gives us a playful reminder that it�s better to engage one�s mental processes before the vocal ones.
In the CD liner notes, Clarke comments: �The tracks were not only recorded first take, there was also no rehearsal at all, minimal discussion as to what we were about to play, and some of the songs were written actually as they recorded.� This is a startling revelation, proving our original hypothesis: �The Rambunctious Blues Experiment� is a success worth more than one listen!
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father�s blues music collection.