JR Clark – Wishing Well
CD: 10 Songs, 57 Minutes
Styles: Ensemble Blues, Soul, Funk, R&B
Why do consumers so often grab a Big Mac, read the latest John Grisham novel, or watch yet another episode of The Simpsons? They’re looking for a certain reliable sort of entertainment, one they can always count on no matter how hard times get. The blues of JR Clark, on his new album Wishing Well, falls into such a category. Innovation takes a back seat to tradition here, but listeners will know three things right off the bat: 1) This ensemble knows how to party; 2) they also know how to make slow selections as gripping as fast ones; and 3) their songwriting skills are above average. They present nine original tunes and one cover, “I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me).” Collectively, these run the gamut from ‘70s homages (the opening number) to gritty stomps (“When She Starts Walkin’”) to reflective melodies (the title track and closer). Clark’s vocals are conversational, but when he lets his guitar do the talking, a powerful exchange ensues between performers and listeners. This is real-deal blues, soul, funk and R&B.
This act consists of national talents, including Johnny B. Gayden, Alligator Records recording artist and bass player for Albert Collins and the Ice Breakers. Johnny played on the Grammy- winning album Showdown! with Albert Collins, Robert Cray, and Johnny Clyde Copeland. Drummer Randal Willis has worked with the likes of Artie “Bluesboy” White, Joe Murray, Tyrone Davis and Mississippi Heat, to name a few. Drummer Jerry “Bam Bam” Porter has toured with Buddy Guy, James Cotton and Magic Slim. Rounding out the lineup is Willie Styles on keys. Willie briefly toured with Robert Ward and is one of the premier and most sought-out keyboard players in West Michigan. JR Clark fronts the band on vocals, lead and rhythm guitar.
One standout track is “Internet Prison,” a five-minute takedown of a permanent fixture in our lives since the late 1990s. Technology’s fantastic, but what kind of monsters has it created? “It’s a brand new way in this world that we’re living. This is a brand new day: all taking and no giving. Everybody wants to be the center of attention. Envy, jealousy, this is what we see, living in this Internet prison.” Oof. The World Wide Web (yes, I’m old enough to still call it that) is supposed to connect and free us from the earlier constraints of analog media, not ensnare us in a cell (pun intended) of our own devices. Nevertheless, that’s what has happened, for better or worse. “We got to stop this madness and this hate, and embrace one another,” Clark exhorts us.
In the mood for some solid blues you can depend upon to entertain, if not to reach avant-garde horizons? Then drop Wishing Well into your CD player!