Rockfold – 2016
9 tracks; 53 minutes
Recorded on a warm June evening in 2015, this CD finds the Mick Clarke Band as it says in the title – rough and raw, entirely live with no overdubs or studio ‘fixes’ – this is exactly how it went down on the night. The venue, ‘Scratchers’ is a weekend blues club held in an old pub in leafy Surrey, southern England, and Mick comes from nearby so this is a local gig for the band.
The sound is clear and you can certainly feel the roughness with Mick’s gruff but serviceable vocals, his tough guitar and the steady pulse of Chris Sharley on drums and Eddie Masters on bass. The nine tracks consist of tunes that will be familiar to most blues fans plus a couple of originals. For this reviewer Mick is at his best when playing slide, as he does on the opener, Elmore James’ “Happy Home” whereas the following cover of Lead Belly’s “Good Morning Blues” is really a bit too loose. Chris’ frenetic drums set the pace on Mick’s own “Rocking The Blues” which sets out the band’s musical philosophy with more slide work from Mick.
James Cotton’s “Love Me Or Leave Me” is a less obvious choice of cover and the band’s extended reading of the tough riffing slower tune gives Mick ample opportunity to show us his skills and provides a feature for Eddie’s bass which to be frank is dispensable. RJ’s “Walkin’ Blues” is a standby for many a blues band and Mick’s trio does a decent job, opening with a walking paced rhythm, Mick building the slide work as he goes along to good effect, possibly the pick of the tracks here.
“Little Rachel” has Louisiana rhythms and Mick’s slide work to go alongside and is followed by Mick’s second original “Cheap” in which he confesses that its quantity not quality that attracts him when looking for booze – “cheap don’t worry me, I’m not looking at the label, I’m looking for quantity”. A loping rhythm gets the toes tapping on this one before Hound Dog Taylor’s “Give Me Back My Wig” which is always fun for fans of slide guitar. The closing track is Willie Dixon’s “Give Me Love” which is, of course, the basis of Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love” from which Mick does quote (as well as “Cats’ Squirrel” and “Catfish Blues”) whilst mainly keeping to Willie’s original. Another extended version, this one closes with Chris flying round the kit, almost as if there should have been a drum solo but it was forgotten!
Mick Clarke has been around for a long time and made many albums. This one is bound to please his hard-core fans.