My Darling Clementine (with Steve Nieve)
A Musical Marriage Made in Country Heaven.
In the week Elvis Costello himself releases his own latest album; one of/if not Britain’s finest Alt. Country act’s re-imagines a bunch of his songs as Classic Country songs …….. and after listening to both; I know which I prefer and which is more relevent…. and here’s my thoughts on it.
History will undoubtedly show that Elvis Costello is one of our country’s finest ever Songwriters; but when he meanders off into Avant Garde territories he loses me; and presumably you too.
Nothing here is going to be from the Dolly Parton playbook of jolly sing-alongs; this is very much the dark end of a lonely street in North Tree Stump; but hey ….. what else would you expect from this combo.
COUNTRY DARKNESS is a culmination of the three EP’S that My Darling Clementine have recently released of their adaptations of a variety of Costello’s songs; and it has come as something of a breath of fresh air in late 2020.
As is their won’t Michael and Lou don’t look at the ‘obvious’ for their selection; and with opening song Either Side of The Same Town, take us down a very dark and lonely side street as they reveal that Costello’s words are just perfect for this variation on a them; and Attraction original; Steve Nieve makes his keyboards sound like they are at a cold and damp funeral, for extra pathos, as if it was needed.
While an Elvis Costello fan, I don’t recognise several songs here as they are from albums that I’ve hardly ever played; so hearing Michael and Lou wail and plead their way through That Day Is Done, Still Too Soon to Know and the tragic Why Can’t a Man Stand Alone has been like discovering a rare treasure in the attic; and when I went back to the originals they didn’t sound half as good as these re-inventions.
Of the songs I do recognise and love; I’ll Wear it Proudly sounds like George and Tammy singing a Johnny and June song that was written by Willie Nelson; as it just bleeds Country tragedy in this format.
While more up-tempo than what goes before; Stranger in The House is still as dark and scary as Elvis Costello’s version and every other version you’ve heard; but somehow My Darling Clementine still manage to add their very own potency to an already simmering gumbo.
With Lou Dalgleish taking the lead Indoor Fireworks sounds as intensely passionate as the original; but takes on a whole new life when Michael’s part comes in to create a genuine bonafide 21st Century Country Classic, which runs Laura Cantrell’s ever so lonely version a very close race indeed.
As I regularly say; COUNTRY DARKNESS is a good old fashioned Long Player that deserves your full attention and needs to be played from start to finish.
That said; in a parallel universe it’s also full to the brim with hit singles; the type that kill the mood when you put them on a jukebox.
The nearest to Country Pop and therefore eminently danceable; The Crooked Line revolves around Steve Nieve’s wondrous swinging organ and some militaristic drumming in the background; and serves as a rare shaft of sunshine on a very dark day.
Which is also where I’m going for my Favourite Song here, which is a coin toss between Heart Shaped Bruise and the new track Powerless (which didn’t feature on the EP’s).
From My Darling Clementine’s very own pens, Powerless certainly squeezes out the pathos of Michael’s words and it also sits in very well on an album of sombre and brooding Country songs; which is a helluva surprise when you hear what goes before it.
The other; and the one song here I had to take a deep breath before listening to, is Heart Shaped Bruise.
Elvis did this as a duet with Emmylou Harris on THE DELIVERY MAN, and it’s been a personal favourite of mine ever since.
So; is this better?
No….. of course not; but it’s very close to getting very close to the perfection of the original; and yes ……. I can imagine any or all of the classic Country Couples singing this it the Opry; and if they had, there wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house ….. or at home in TV and Radio Land.
All in all this has been a brave album to record; but one that makes perfect sense when you know My Darling Clementine AND Elvis Costello; it’s a three-way marriage made in Nashville Heaven; and of course Steve Nieve is the Best Man too.
Released 6th November 2020
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