The Godfather Of British Americana Returns to Put The Alt. Into Country.
Allan Clarke? Who he? Many of you will be asking; but if you know your history you should know that his golden voice was the main reason that the Hollies were so succesful in the 1960’s and with only a tiny leap of imagination were the forefathers of what we now know as British Country/Americana music.
So, after being retired for 20 years why ‘come back’ now? It appears the simple answer is ‘why not’.
A few years ago he started writing poetry and when asked why he didn’t want to put it to music; he replied that he couldn’t face all the studio palaver any more; so his son sorted him out with GarageBand, he got to work than brought in his friend Francis Haines as Producer/Arranger and here is the end result.
Clarke’s distinctive voice is instantly recognisable on opening track Journey of Regret, but slightly worn around the edges which fits in perfectly with this edgy Country tale that would easily have fit into Cash’s American body of work.
There’s no evidence of a DIY ethos here, and then again there is no over-production which (may) have blighted some of his solo work; this album is all about the songs …. and the songs alone.
Clarke appears to have embraced the Americana ethos with both hands; using that type of imagery, and occasionally Twang to great effect on Hearts of Stone, I’ll Just Keep on Walking and the deeply personal I’m Coming Home, which errs on the folkier side of the spectrum; and will touch your heart in the most unexpected fashion.
There’s even a touch of American Gothic to the brooding The Door is Slowly Closing; which sounds like a musical storm is brewing and you’re can’t help feeling will it or will it not boil over?
Clarke’s dalliance with poetry makes an occasional appearance too; most noticeably on the rather lovely I’m Only Sleeping;
“From a garland of indifference
Comes a fragrance of deceit
A bouquet of unfilled promises
Lay scattered at my feet”
Clarke’s rich voice and some cool guitar interludes certainly saves it from ever being twee. This will amuse or confuse you; it actually reminds me of Paul Weller’s early solo work ……. and that’s a good thing at RMHQ.
The only nod in the direction of Allan Clarke’s Hollies Days is a song called Long Cool Woman’s Back in Town and the world is a better place for this bittersweet Alt. Country rocker featuring some spine shivering harmonica from the man himself.
AHA! What to select as a Favourite Track? Several I’ve already mentioned could certainly fit the bill; but there’s something special about You Broke My Heart that makes it the cornerstone for everything to build around. A mid-paced Rocker with Clarke drawing up memories from the dark recesses of his memory bank that will resonate with everyone who has had their own heart broken by a loved one; and it’s something Allan Clarke can be very, very proud of.
I listen to a whole lot of music like this, and I can honestly say that this album sits up there with recent releases from the likes of RMHQ Favourites Jason Isbell, Stephen Fearing and Will Kimbrough.
Released September 20th 2019