A road worth traveling
Reviewed April 2009
By Mickey Clark
ear X-tacy records: 2009
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
The title of Mickey Clark's sophomore disc is appropriately dubbed "Wandering Highways, since the country singer/songwriter has been in and out of the front line of the music business since the early '60s. He was involved in the early folk scene in New York, worked as a songwriter in Nashville, released a number of minor singles, and networked with some top country artists including some who helped him with this album.
The 14 cuts are a combination of old and recent originals from Clark's pen, and a few covers of good songs by other writers. The musicianship by a veteran Nashville session crew is flawless (and the producer is Jim Rooney, who's worked with everyone from Townes Van Zandt to Nanci Griffith).
Above all, the thing that makes this work is the combination of strong material and Clark's great vocals. He has an assured and relaxed depth of voice, whether singing deep bass or yodeling falsetto, and he isn't trying to emulate any other artist; the old-school feel of most of the tunes fits his delivery perfectly.
"Red Velvet Cake" opens things up with fiddle, banjo and a minor chord melody to tell a story of his childhood on the farm. "Louise," written by Paul Siebel, is an effective soft ballad about the passing of a fallen woman, while Clark spins a tale about a lost love in the big sky country in his "Wyoming Child." This tune showcases two of his strengths imagery in lyrics and an expressive vocal that shows good range. "Don't Piss On My Boots and Tell Me It's Raining" is a country swing tune with great lyrics. Along for the ride on this one are Jerry Jeff Walker, Kinky Friedman, John Prine and some other luminaries. "Where the Green River Flows" is an infectious and catchy ballad that will stick in the listener's head for days, and features Robin and Linda Williams on swelling harmony vocals. A clear highlight is "Sarah," another memorable tune that seems like it should end up being covered by other artists.
"Tijuana Tequila” may be the only cut on the disc that is a wrongo; the structure and goof lyrics unfortunately play up the similarity of Clark"s voice to Jimmy Buffet's. This minor misfire is immediately righted by the cover "Goodnight Loving Trail," with Jerry Jeff aboard to get things back to singing about lizards and sage.
Clark has clearly been around, and has written some great tunes on the way. His "Wandering Highways" are definitely worth traveling.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.