The idea of "New Mountain" was to catch the feel of the band as it was on the many club and festival dates that we were playing around Europe at that time. Although not recorded "live" it was recorded fast and with the minimum of overdubs, and is a good record of the band as it was in August 1999.
We made the album at a friendly studio in the suburbs of Bromley.."Bromley City Limits" is meant to be ironic! I avoided any really heavy material and stuck to a rockin' blues format - plenty of shuffles, boogies and one slow blues..the Muddy Waters song "You Gonna Miss Me". I also threw in a couple of acoustic guitar numbers for the first time on record.
"See See Baby" was a song we played with Freddie King when we were touring with him back in the 60's. I had never recorded one of his songs before, and thought it was time to pay a small tribute. I've kept to the basic arrangement and original words, although I never thought I'd ever sing "Oh Lawdy Mama"!
"Please Believe Me" is a Charles Brown song which I simply liked. If you get the chance check out the original, which he recorded with Fats Domino's band - it's great!
I always thought that Muddy's version of "You Gonna Miss Me" was a bit upbeat and jaunty considering the subject matter, so I arranged our version as a minor key slow blues - it's quite different, but I think it works. For a while we played it at every gig and it could be the highlight of the evening.
Two acoustic tracks.. I've always avoided acoustic guitar songs. 1. I'm not a very good acoustic guitarist (not compared to some) 2. I didn't want to create yet another comparison with Rory. But I'd had the song "Howlin' Wolf" in the back of my head since I wrote it about ten years earlier, so I thought it was time. It was written about the time we played with the great man at a college in the North of England. Afterwards we sat and chatted with Wolf and Freddie King in the dressing room, while Wolf got slowly more and more inebriated, and eventually came out with the line "you see life is like a great big wheel, and you've got to grab at the spokes as it goes round". Magic.
"Singapore Strut" is extremely Django influenced, but it comes out as something all of its own..Django meets Eddie Lang? I wrote it purely for my own amusement and never imagined it going on a Mick Clarke album. But it's fun..no more than that. The rest of the album is pretty much straight ahead boogie and shuffle - I hope you like it.
THE BLUES AMBASSADOR (USA)
Mick Clarke's new release "New Mountain" is a high energy mix of rock'n'roll, boogie, and electric blues. Clarke has been a west coast favorite for years, noted for his live shows. Most notable is the guitar work of "Restless" and the Rory Gallaghar-sounding cut, "Bed of Nails". Very tasty indeed.
BLUES & RAG (USA)
This British guitar slinger deserves much more recognition in the states. With seven prior albums, Clarke can play with the best. The eighth "New Mountain", should be more accessible due to its release on Burnside Records, and it comes highly recommended. So much so that it should be part of your collection. This is blues in the vein of the English sound during John Mayall's reign, somewhere between the Clapton and Peter Green era. Throw in a dose of Johnny Winter and Rory Gallagher, and you have a winner of a player. Clarke's influence came as he witnessed a 1965 appearance by Clapton in an English high school. In 1968, Clarke started the band Killing Floor, where he backed up Freddie King on a British tour. During the stint. the band played with Howlin' Wolf, Otis Spann and other greats. In 1984 the Mick Clarke Band was formed, meeting with much European success but little in the states. With "New Mountain" its time to rediscover him here. "Restless" kicks off the album with the mid-sixties driving British guitar style. "Honey Do" is a fifties style rocker driven by Lou Martin's piano. And that piano compliments Mick's leads on one of the three covers, Freddie King's "See Me Baby"."Bed of Nails" is pure driven boogie that shows how tight the rhythm section of drummer Chris Sharley and bassist Ian Ellis is. "You Gonna Miss Me" is a lament about the parting of a relationship, aptly put to slow blues. On "The Howlin' Wolf" and "Singapore Strut", Mick breaks out the acoustic guitar to give a new dimension to his playing. The closer "I Should've Waited" is enhanced by slide playing over the open-chord rhythm. The Muddy Waters classic "You Gonna Miss Me" is another bonus. The 14 songs on New Mountain offer what we've been missing. Mick's been paying dues for a long while, and it's time to discover what has been missed. Add this one to your collection.
BLUES REVUE (USA)
Guitarist/vocalist Mick Clarke, a member of the late '60s band Killing Floor, once toured with Freddie King. On his fifth release for Burnside,the veteran British blues rocker offers a self-produced set of shuffling blues, straight-eights rock and driving boogie. New Mountain's themes are simple and at least pleasantly familiar, if unremarkable.
Singing in a soft, understated manner and playing lead on a Gibson SG, Clarke produces vintage rock-affected blues backed by keyboardist Lou Martin (whose career has included a stint with Rory Gallagher), bassist Ian Ellis whose early credits include Savoy Brown) and drummer Chris Sharley. Eleven of the 14 tracks are original compositions, and they're mostly a lacklustre collection; the title track, perhaps the strongest, features a heavy bottom end with a nicely accented shuffle. It's propulsive boogie brings to mind the sound of Studebaker John Grimaldi. The covers are more interesting: Clarke burns Muddy Waters' "You're Gonna Miss Me" into a soulful lament that's the album's highlight. The song's rich texture and dramatic atmosphere are furthered by Martin's rapid-fire piano solo. The band's slick, smooth rendering of Freddie King's "See See Baby" simmers nicely. The guitar solos throughout New Mountain are bright, and Clarke's phrasing patterns and classic SG crunch hark to an earlier era and give the album a decidely rock edge. Clarke also plays credible slide when the mood is a bit more blue, as in the closer "I should've Waited".
While there isn't a lot new to be heard here,New Mountain conveys the impression that Clarke is a compelling live act. It's for those who prefer the simple grooves of straight-ahead boogie blues presented by cats who know the style.
Great roadhouse blues! (5 stars)
Mick Clarke is the leader when it comes to the rockin' british blues. This CD has elements of boogie and straight ahead blues with downright gritty and nasty guitar playing. I was really suprised to hear the keyboard playing of Lou Martin. I used to love him when he played with the late great Rory Gallagher and still dig his playing with Mick. The two really know how to knock out a cd. Grab this one while you can
BLUES MATTERS (UK)
MICK CLARKE is one of those figures who has seemingly forever been standing in the wings, the elusive opportunity to take centre stage never quite coming within his grasp.
Inspired to take up the blues guitar by the sight and sound of the Bluesbreakers-era Clapton, Clarke fronted a succession of workmanlike blues-rock outfits, starting in 1968 with Killing Floor. Down the years, he's done his fair share of dues paying - and one of the rewards has been the chance to play with the likes of Freddie King, Otis Spann and the Howlin' Wolf (lucky man!). These days, he works with a trio of tried and tested side-men: old mate and ex-Rory Gallagher man Lou Martin on keyboards, former Savoy Browner Ian Ellis on bass and drummer Chris Sharley, once of Welsh rockers Sassafras.
"New Mountain" is Clarke's fifth LP for the American Burnside label and was put together, he says, in an effort to reflect the way the band has sounded over the last couple of years, playing at clubs and festivals all over Europe.
As such, there are few surprises to be found here. You get more or less what you'd expect of such a band - tough, solid, competent musicianship and well-crafted songs (albeit with a fair number of riffs and licks "borrowed" from various familiar sources!)
There's also just about enough energy and spontaneity to prove that Brit bluesrockers of this vintage still have a bit of fire in their bellies. From the stomping opener "Restless" (a Clarke original, not the Carl Perkins rocker), to the closing shot, "Should Have Waited" the rhythm section grooves away very effectively. Throughout, Lou Martin proves what a fine band player he is, his piano and Hammond work functioning marvellously as part of the rhythm section, driving things along, rather than partaking of too many grandstanding solos. Clarke himself is an adequate vocalist, who knows his limitations and makes the most of a fairly limited range. But his guitar playing - and especially his slide work and the brace of acoustic show-cases on the LP - more than make up for it.
Highlights are his searing slide work on "Bed Of Nails" and "London Town", the Django-esque instrumental "Singapore Strut" and "The Howlin' Wolf", a truly heartfelt tribute to Mr.Chester Burnett. This features some quite awesome, driving acoustic guitar and a chorus that graphically paints Wolf in living detail:
"I saw him crawl on the stage like a big black bear
And he raised up his voice to the roof
And his howls and his moans, sent a shiver through my bones,
That's when I met the Howlin' Wolf"
I can honestly say this CD was an un-expected delight - an album I'm sure I'll come back to time and time again.
G21 MAGAZINE (USA)
Listening to Mick Clarke play the guitar is not a bad way to spend an evening. After hearing his new album, "New Mountain" (Burnside Records), there's no question that this musician knows his way around the instrument.
Backed by Lou Martin on keyboards, Chris Sharley on drums and Jan Ellis handling the bass, Clarke plays with distinction. His vocals are those of a player without a particularly good or distinctive voice. But the general excellence of the music isn't harmed by the less-than-stellar voice of the leader.
Clarke has been around for awhile. Born in London in 1950. He saw Eric Clapton play at his school's fair and from then on decided he would pursue the life of a musician. It wasn't long before his band was backing blues great Freddie King on tour of the UK.
Clarke's band has stayed busy over the past 15 years, touring throughout Europe, from Finland down into Italy.
My guess is that seeing the Mick Clarke Band in person would be a treat. Check Burnside's Web site for additional information.