Telegram - the album

01 Can't Stop Lovin'
02 Telegram
03 I Ain't Got You
04 House of Cards
05 Night School
06 World In A jug
07 The Love Me Or Die
08 No Fool Baby
09 Barbecue Bob
10 Tin Box
11 Blues Start Walkin'
12 Corrine, Corrina

Released Friday 16th September 2022. Digital release only. Available on all major platforms. Stream now on Spotify and follow for latest releases.
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Track Breakdown:

Track 1: Can't Stop Lovin'

Here's a late addition, although it was actually the original track which inspired the whole album. A raw, stripped down 3 piece version of Elmore's classic. To me, this is Taste as I saw them when they first arrived from Ireland at the Marquee Club in London, 1968. Or early Killing Floor.. Black Cat Bones.. other bands of that period.

I always thought it was the opening track but I was hesitant, because it is an unapologetic rock blues track, not particularly well recorded, and only good to listen to if you're in the right mood. Could put some people off.. So...

It is, as I say, the track that inspired the whole project, and it has to be here. The album grew (like Topsy) and turned into something else, but this is where it started. So I'm back at the Marquee Club 1968, or the Blues Loft, Blues Attic.. one of those places. British blues fans of a certain age will know what I'm talking about. Pour a beer and turn up your stereo.. Elmore's revenge, Mick's distant memories, 1960s British Blues Rock is here!

Track 2: Telegram

The title track 'Telegram' is based on an old Frankie Lee Sims number. Guitar is all one take on my Rosetti 'Foreign' model archtop, my very first guitar bought in 1963 for 8 guineas, now with a De Armond Rhythm Chief 2000 pickup - the same pick up favoured by Elmore James and Muddy Waters among others. (Including Vick Flick when he recorded the James Bond theme)!

Track 3: I Ain't Got You

Jimmy Reed's Chicago Blues classic - still sounds great today. I first heard the song by the Yardbirds, (also still sounds great). It was the B Side of their first single 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' with some great guitar which I presume was Clapton. So I thought I'd have a go at it. My first attempt was a heavy Billy Gibbons kind of approach which didn't really work. So I switched to my old 1963 Danelectro and went for a rougher kind of feel - in my mind it's like something from a Chicago street band.. (I've never been but I have a good imagination). Anyway it came out pretty good and I managed to avoid too many of the cliches of the song. Great lyric.. a charge account at Goldblatts.. don't hear that too often.

Track 4: House of Cards

A personal favourite - an original funky riff with an original lyric. To my ears the whole track seems to sit nicely and groove along, rising and falling as required. Sometimes I can get it right - I hope you agree.

Track 5: Night School

This was also on my online collection 'Blue Shadows' but as it was the only original composition on the album I thought it deserved to be here also.

Solid boogie based on a riff from.. Billy Boy Arnold. Not sure. Yes I learned a lot at the Night School.. all that rock'n'roll malarky and the rest. No more time to be a fool.

Track 6: World In A Jug

A great song written by Canned Heat and included on their classic 'Boogie With Canned Heat' album. Based on an earlier 'I've got the world in a jug' it was probably mainly Al Wilson's work, but they shared royalties in a vain attempt at fairness, though I believe it all ended up going to some management company. Anyway - great track. I was lucky enough to run in to the band and various members over the years.. I met Larry The Mole Taylor a few times.. great great bass player. I saw the band in an LA club in 1979 with The Bear and Hollywood Fats on guitar. We later played a gig with them in Corvallis Oregon and I got to meet Hank.. Henry Vestine. He was great too.. rocking his way through Going Up The Country like his life depended on it. World In A Jug.

Track 7: The Love Me Or Die

Another great song written by Australia's C W Stoneking. A tale of lust, death and voodoo in the jungle - what a lyric. I've always loved CW's original and thought I might attempt a kind of garagey guitar based version.. dare I? Well here it is, and I think it works pretty good. Anyway it was a pleasure to record - hope you enjoy it.

Track 8: No Fool Baby

A raucous little shuffle with guitar on the Strat. One of the best compliments I've had was being compared to Guitar Slim.. he always used a capo on his guitar, a 'clamp' as he succinctly called it. I've become a big clamp user - it adds an edge to the sound I think, and compensates to some extent for my arthritis! So here's some vaguely Guitar Slim influenced boogying.. though I draw the line at the red suits and the dancing on car roofs.

Track 9: Barbecue Bob

Here's a song about young Bob Hicks, who worked at a gas station / barbecue joint in Georgia in the 1920s. He'd sell you a can of gas for your Model T and cook you a burger. He'd also give you a tune on his 12 string guitar, and that was how he got discovered and became Barbecue Bob.

Bob had some success with his records but died tragically young at 29. Eric Clapton recorded his song "Motherless Child" and I have to say I think it's one of Eric's best. And I always liked the way he talked about it when interviewed on TV - "oh it's a Barbecue Bob song".. like, you know Barbecue Bob don't you? Of course you do.

I have to admit I didn't know much about the man at the time, but have since read up his history and listened a lot to his music. And I was literally thinking.. I wonder what his burgers were like? So here's a song about Bob with something approximating his style of rhythm guitar on the 12 string, and some lead guitar picked out on my 1930s Harmony archtop.. nearly old enough to be contemporaneous with Bob's short life.

Track 10: Tin Box

Here's a song about working at the Metal Box Factory, Bermondsey, London circa 1972.

That was a lonely walk down to the tube station to get to Waterloo and find out if I'd be accepted for a day's work. And a proper day's work too - I learned why people drink strong tea with lots of sugar. The blues, man, the blues.

Track 11: Blues Start Walkin'

I originally wrote and recorded this song for the album "Shake It Up" which was released in 2015. It was popular at the time and I always thought I could do more with it, so here's a jauntier, more in yo' face version, featuring lead guitar on my 1930's Harmony archtop with the De Armond pickup.

Track 12: Corrine, Corrina

Here's an old old song which has been recorded by everyone from Dean Martin to Marianne Faithfull..(really). I think I first heard a kind of western swing version by Merle Haggard - great version. There seem to be plenty of country versions and a few blues ones, such as Big Joe Turner's.

Anyway, I decided to reconstruct the thing and put it to a laid back feel, with a kind of coda built on to it. Guitar solos are on the 1930's archtop again, but acoustic, which I think is in keeping with the age of the song which must be a hundred years old.

The album 'Telegram' was released on all online platforms on Friday 16th September 2022.

Mick Clarke - Telegram' Mick writes:

Here's my 'official' album release for 2022.. 12 tracks of rocking blues.

Most of these tracks have already been released online as singles. I call this the Charles Dickens method.. you might remember that he used to publish his books a chapter at a time. Well I suppose it diminished the impact when the whole books came out, but they haven't done too badly over time.

I find that this works for me in a variety of ways. As I currently produce all my new material working alone in my home studio and playing all the instruments, each track can take a while to put together. (Not always I might add). By the time I reach track number 6 I'm already bored to death with constantly checking on track number 1 to see if it still sounds OK. And what I really want to do is get the music out there so that people can hear it.

To me the golden age of records was right back in the 50s, when someone like Elvis Presley could go into Sun Studio, work all night on one song, (with a spare 5 minutes for the B side), get it on the radio by the end of the week and in people's hands the week after. I love the immediacy of that. I'm also extremely impatient, with a short attention span. I just like to get on with things, so in many ways the modern world with the home recording explosion and access to an immediate world streaming market is a return to those days.

In the studio I like to keep things organic - first takes as much as possible. Definitely no drum machines.. I use a few samples but most of the drumming is me on an old Ludwig snare and a rather spiffy Paiste Hi Hat. I tuned the drum when I bought it about 9 years and I refuse to touch it again. I occasionally tighten up the snare or screw things back on when they fall off. Bass is on a £69 'Has Guitar' which I bought for the 'Rambunctious' album in 2012. I do tune it, but hope never to have to change a string. Keyboards are all on my wife's Roland D500 which sounds great for piano or Hammond sound. Lou Martin used it on our album 'Happy Home'. Guitars are from my collection of Gibson, Epiphone, Fender, Squier, Danelectro, Harmony, Rosetti and De Armond.. and my all purpose £9.99 'Oxfam Special' electro acoustic. For amps I can choose between my original Watkins 6 watt, bought in 1963, or a nice Marshall type amp called a 'Bugero' which I run through a fancy studio quality speaker simulator. I record on an ancient digital workstation, but master the tracks in a different room using Cakewalk and some modern plug ins. I find every stage of the process fascinating and rewarding in its own way.

I originally conceived this collection as a 3 piece album - raw and dirty. I recorded a version of an Elmore James number which came out sounding like something from 1968.. Taste or early Killing Floor or something. But as I say - short attention span. I immediately wanted to do something completely different, and the album evolved into something else. The Elmore track got dropped for a while but it's back in now. Flawed but exciting.. where it all began.

And the cover photo was taken around that time. It probably doesn't reflect the finished album, but.. what the hell. It features my trusty Gibson SG 'Gnasher'. Well, Gnasher doesn't get out much these days so I thought it should get its photo taken. I don't think it even features on the album.. if I want a Gibson sound I usually use one of my Epiphone semi acoustics which record a lot easier than Gnasher.

Similarly, the title 'Telegram' came with the 3 piece concept. Short and sweet, like some of Rory's albums.. 'Deuce' or 'Tattoo'. Fortunately I quite like it, and it is the title track of the album. Maybe Gnasher sending out a telegram saying - hey get me a gig! (Insert smile emoji). I have taken an extended break from live work, but actually I've really enjoyed it, and it's been some of my most productive time in the studio. Anyway I've no doubt I'll be back on a stage at some point - always open to the right offer.

So the album came together as an eclectic mix of tracks ranging from British Rock Blues to Chicago Blues and Americana. Full track breakdown in the next column. I've thoroughly enjoyed releasing the tracks one by one and watching the reaction. All seem to have been well received so far. The complete album will be available on September 16th, a week earlier than originally planned. (Impatient, remember)? and I've already got more new releases lined up for between then and Christmas. Well, in this hot summer Fabulous Rockfold Studio is always cool... what else is a poor boy to do?

Mick Clarke, Rockfold, 15 August 2022

Blues guitarist Mick Clarke 72nd birthday - a beach in Sussex, England Mick's 72nd birthday - Shoreham Beach, West Sussex. Photo: Linda Cooper.