2020 Album Release.
01 Knocking At Your Door
02 Trouble Trouble
03 Snappin' At Your Heel
04 Full Circle
05 Just To Get Me By
06 I Stay In The Mood
07 Dog And Bone
08 Everything's Gonna Be Alright
09 Mick's Guitar Boogie
10 Heard It All Before
11 Dead Leg Boogie
12 Flyin' Lo
13 Down At The Bridge
14 Big Wheel
Recorded by Mick Clarke at Fabulous Rockfold Studio, Surrey, England 2019 / 2020
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Also available on CD from Amazon On Demand. These CDs are custom made by Amazon in the USA.
A little background (from Mick)..
"Big Wheel" is my new album for 2020. 11 new tracks and I've added 3 tracks which were released last year on EPs or compilations... I thought I'd road test a few things, and these three came through. They've all been remixed, remastered or mucked about with in some way for this release. Everything else is brand new.
As usual I've enjoyed putting this stuff together - always an adventure. I have a few new toys to play with - generally things that cost very little but make an interesting noise.. such as a new pickup on my 9.99 Oxfam acoustic, and notably a new pick-up on my very first guitar, which has waited patiently in the attic for 56 years for its chance to shine.
There's a bit of an Elmore James theme running through this album, for reasons mentioned below. (And just because he was so damn good). I remember my Mum going up to Dobells Record Shop in the West End to buy me the "Elmore James Memorial Album" for a Christmas present (1965 I think) - she'd love to know I was still drawing inspiration from it.
Anyway - I hope you enjoy the music. There's blues and rock, instrumentals and songs with words.. both kinds. Guitars, drums, a bit of joanna.. all kinds of stuff going on.. have fun.
Knocking At Your Door
A track I first heard on the aforementioned "Elmore James Memorial Album" back in the 60s. Actually this song was on the first Killing Floor album, but we changed the words for financial and dishonesty reasons.. I can't remember which song it became. But here it is in roughly original form.. lead guitar is my Rosetti with the Elmore pickup (see "Full Circle" for the story). Twangy but nice.
From a jazzy blues ballad by Betty Roche. She seemed mainly concerned about the trouble she was having with her man .. I've changed the words a bit. The "Bent Frets" Strat rattling nicely on the solos.
Snappin' At Your Heel
I was listening to New Orleans radio on the internet one day and they played a great track by Roy Buchanan with that fabulous piercing bridge pickup Telecaster sound... inspired me do something where I could go for something similar, using the bridge pickup on the Strat. This came out and I think it's pretty good. Lighthearted lyric based on real life at Rockfold.
Back on the Elmore James thing.. I was reading about the guitar he used.. a Kay acoustic with a De Armond Rhythm Chief pickup. It turns out you can still get the pickups, a 1948 design, so I had to have one. Unfortunately it wouldn't fit under the strings on my Oxfam jumbo.. I needed a cello style archtop.. and I had one! In the attic.. my first guitar, stowed away for 56 years because I didn't like to get rid of it. It's a Rosetti "Foreign" model.. all of £8.40 back in 1963. It's got a rotten action but that's OK.. the pickup went on and I recorded "Full Circle" the same day. And the great thing is, they're the original strings left on since I discarded the instrument around 1964. So here's a blast from the past in every way. The title wrote itself.
Just To Get Me By
Released last year on one of the "Cut Loose" EPs, this has has proved to be a popular track. And I like it too so here it is. Some Dave Davies riffing with my Simon Kirke drumming..(ha ha - sorry Simon).
I Stay In The Mood
Also released last year on the "Blues Collection" compilation - my version of the BB King song. Lead guitar on the Epiphone by Gibson Sheraton.
Dog and Bone
A bit of stonesy rock'n'roll featuring the cowbell I bought for the "Jumpin' Jack Flash" session with Bill T. For people who are not Londoners, dog and bone is your actual cockinese. (Why do I keep thinking of Danny Dyer? That can't be healthy).
Everything's Gonna Be Alright
As the Covid-19 crisis was beginning to develop I had already started recording this version of the Little Walter classic, for inclusion on a future album. And I suddenly thought - this is a sentiment which applies now, not later. So I delayed the album a little and released this as a single. I'm happy to say it's proving popular, and I'm well aware that for many, everything is not gonna be alright. Still, I'm an optimist and will continue to be one.
Mick's Guitar Boogie
Hey! Here's an evergreen. Way back when I was a mere lad I used to go and see Jeff Beck at the Marquee Club, London with Rod Stewart. Still some of the best gigs I ever saw. Jeff did his amazing virtuoso "Jeff's Boogie".. I still can't do those licks like he did. Later I heard the Chuck Berry version.. more relaxed.. I like it. And over the years I've played the tune on stage and even recorded it on "West Coast Connection". So why not.. here's Mick's boogie.. more Chuck than Jeff, but with a bit of Mick, and even a touch of Freddie.
Heard It All Before
I thought it was time I did a nice straight minor key blues, so here it is. Inspired, clearly, by Mr Rush, though I would not be worthy to change his strings for him. (Though my friend Lou did tell me a story about helping him pack away his PA after a gig in Chicago, which brings everything into perspective). Anyway, a chance to stretch out on the Strat which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Dead Leg Boogie
Actually inspired by the unusual lop side bass drum pattern which sounds as if I'm walking with a limp.. it's the dead leg boogie. Although the 13 hours on a long haul flight is real enough.. the flight back from Hong Kong a few years back.. the most tedious 13 hours of my life. I was reduced to watching childrens' cartoons.. I still have nightmares.
Years ago when we were touring with Freddie King (yes I know I go on about it, but it was a big deal in our lives).. one time I was driven with Freddie, in a mini, across the Pennines.. (our very own mountain range here in England, for those who are not from these parts). The car was driven pretty fast and it was a bumpy ride. I remember Freddie muttering about "flying a bit low, man..". So as this is a kind of Freddie type instrumental I thought I should dedicate it to him. Flyin' Lo.
Down At The Bridge
Back in the 70s there was a big ol' pub in the East End docklands area of London called The Bridgehouse. After a while it gained a reputation as the place where all the East End bands were hanging out.. every night was an event. In fact the place had such a strong identity that musicians from other areas were wary of it - it was an "in crowd" of tough guys, or at least perceived as such. Anyway, somehow our band SALT became part of the Bridgehouse scene, despite being softy sarf londoners, and it produced one of the most fun parts of my career. Every gig was a blast and it was a place where all our friends would meet. Run by the inimitable Terry Murphy, a former boxer, the Bridgehouse holds a special place in the memories of all who played there.
As mentioned elsewhere, this is a quote from Howlin' Wolf when we played with him, up at Lancaster University in 1969. The lyric is also a twist on Muddy's "Young Fashioned Ways" where Muddy sings that he may be getting old but he has young fashioned ways. Well I'm not that old, but my ways, at least musically, are seriously rooted in the past. I'm happy to keep it that way! Solos on the Strat sounding nice and clean.
Dmitry Epstein - Let It Rock
A salty dog of British blues serves up arguably the best album of his solo career.
Last decade has seen Mick Clarke release records on a yearly basis, and while his chosen genre doesn’t seem to invite much variety, each of the guitarist’s works is captivating in its own special way. Still, pausing the pace to recharge batteries proved to be a wise decision for him, this pit stop resulting in “Big Wheel” – a tentative apex of the veteran’s route up to now. A usual mix of classics and originals, with an Elmore James motif running through the grooves, the album’s nuclear energy cannot help but move many a blues aficionado.
Revisiting a piece KILLING FLOOR appropriated for their first album and taking the cut back to base, Clarke sets things in motion with enviable panache as he rocks and roars through “Knocking At Your Door” whose rudimentary rhythm and half-hidden piano propel a six-string part to the fore and smear sweet patina all over Mick’s voice. The rumble may subside for the cover of Betty Roche’s “Trouble Trouble” yet the acoustic licks contrasting heavy riffs bolster the number’s nuanced menace before harmonica and bare beat increase the doomsday feel tenfold. Still, there’s a vibrant, kaleidoscopic delivery of Little Walter’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” to up the listener’s optimism: a rare thing for the blues, indeed.
Of course, there’s also fine fatigue in “Heard It All Before” to dim the lights, while the mood is much more frivolous on “Snappin’ At Your Heel” which offers a meatier sound, and Clarke’s reading of B.B.’s “I Stay In The Mood” is suitably boisterous, too. Slider rolling across the frets on “Full Circle” to link this instrumental with the sparse title track, the album’s finale, makes his twang irresistibly tasty, but “Just To Get Me By” gets by purely on its catchy drive – as do “Down At The Bridge” with its smile-inducing reminiscences or “Dog And Bone” that features cowbell as if to tell everyone: don’t fear Jack The Ripper!
The reedier “Mick’s Guitar Boogie” finds Clarke passing the tune to bass and ivories, and “Dead Leg Boogie” is as deliciously raw as only he can serve, with the wordless “Flyin’ Lo” fleshing it out with a dry interplay of the artist’s armory. If there’s a wheel, there’s a way so, judging by his robust axe-swinging, Mick Clarke’s wheel’s going to roll further up on the road. With a record like this, long may he run.
Review for our French speakers from Jean-Claude Mondo:
Mick Clarke est l’un des plus anciens blues rockers anglais encore en activité. Il a vécu la glorieuse époque du British Blues Boom de la fin des sixties au sein de son band de l'époque, Killing Floor. Depuis près de quarante ans, il mène son MC Band. Cet infatigable musicien a beaucoup tourné, surtout en Europe. Aujourd'hui il passe la plupart de son temps chez lui. Il y compose, enregistre dans son studio, produit et publie ses albums sur son label Rockfold.
L’opus recèle 14 plages, dont onze inédites et trois nouvelles versions de compos datant de l'année dernière. "Trouble at your door" ouvre le bal, un ancien morceau signé Elmore James, qui remonte à 1960. Un blues rock bien classique, sans fioritures, caractérisé par de brèves mais meurtrières phrases sur les cordes. Il double cordes électriques et dobro acoustique et force sa voix afin de communiquer sa souffrance sur "Trouble trouble", une piste qui évolue sur un tempo plus lent. Inspirée par Roy Buchanon, "Snappin' at the wheel" accélère le tempo. Concis, saignants et incisifs, ses envols constituent du MC pur et dur. Le long playing recèle trois plages instrumentales. "Full circle", une autre cover d’Elmore James. Clarke y étale sa technique à la slide. "Mick's guitar boogie" ensuite. Il a rage de vaincre, dans l’esprit de Chuck Berry et Jeff Beck. "Flyin' lo", enfin. Un hommage chargé d’émotion adressé à Freddie King qu'il avait accompagné en tournée, dès 1969, avec Killing Floor. Mick, rocker de cœur mais bluesman dans l'âme respecte les monuments du blues. Sa reprise du "I stay in the mood" de BB King est nerveuse. Celle du "Everything' s gonna be alright" de Little Walter, allègre et convaincante. Et enfin du "Heard it all before" d'Otis Rush, chargée de feeling. Le riff de gratte exécuté sur "Dog and bone" semble emprunté à Keith Richards, même si l’attaque du morceau évoque plutôt ZZ Top. Boogie classieux, "Down to the bridge" se souvient d’un ancien club londonien. Et "Big wheel" clôt cet LP, tout en subtilité
Photo below: Peering over my Epiphone Sheraton.. keep rockin!