In the Middle of Nowhere
Rip Cat Records
If Ever Bada Bing! Needs a House Band, Look No Further.
Baring in mind how much new music I have to get through, I was only playing John Clifton’s NIGHTLIFE album two days before this arrived through the door.
While the format is pretty much the same as you’d expect, and indeed hope (this sure ain’t Prog!) there’s an additional sharpness to these songs if my untrained ears don’t deceive me. This may be down to Clifton using his touring band without the aid of guest stars; or maybe he just had a better idea of the sound he wanted to create in the studio….. whatever; it works a treat.
The harmonica and guitar duel which kick starts I’m Leaving You Baby only slightly prepares you for the full on R&B assault the rest of the song will have on your aural senses.
With that in mind, Clifton and associates go on to sound like they should have been the house band in Bada Bing! The Sopranos drinking club of choice in the way they go on to give us a no holds barred, taking no prisoners, ‘like it or lump it’ set of songs that defy time.
Clifton not only has great taste in the music he chooses to cover (Howlin’ Wolf’s Poor Boy and Merle’s Honky Tonk Night Time Man both get the Clifton treatment and come out all shiny and sassy just in the way both were intended); but first and foremost I love the songs from his very own pen the most.
The title track In The Middle of Nowhere is something of a Country/Blues infusion with stinging words right from the pits of his heart straight to yours; and on Junkie Woman Blues he wings us back to the Juke-Joint days of olde without skipping a beat; but he can also give a masterclass in harmonica playing on the wonderful Ain’t Spending No More Money; which also showcases Bartek Szopinski’s piano playing too.
Choosing a Favourite Song on a John Clifton album is never going to be easy; and I’m torn between the soulfully painful cover of Junior Wells’ So Tired I Could Cry, which was a staple of a band I loved 30+ years ago in my hometown of Newcastle, The Blues Burglars and the other is one of John’s own; the instrumental Cool Spot in Hell which just may have some of the finest chromatic harmonica playing I’ve ever heard at it’s heart, so I’m going for the latter as my #1.
Usually bands that are red hot on stage can’t find that spark in the studio; that’s not the case here as John Clifton has created a studio album that will live just as long in the memory of the fans who ever get to see his legendary live shows.
Released 19th April 2019