With the demise of the Black Top label, the godfather of Austin Blues, Wesley Curley Clark, has been signed up by Alligator. His debut for his new label, "From Austin With Soul," finds him at the peak of his powers, continuing where he previously left off.
The opening bars of "Snatching It Back" grab your attention, as the whole band slot right into the groove. It has just the right blend of horns, guitar and keyboard overlaying a very solid engine room of bass and drums on a song that hints that great things are to come. The Texas horn section (led by Kaz Kazanoff) are on top form throughout, and help to make the ensuing "Midnight Hour Blues" with its walking bass, really swing.
As well as being a fine guitarist, Clark has a terrific soulful voice. He uses it to great effect on "I've Been Searching," a song O.V. Wright used to perform, sounding uncannily like Al Green in places. He also has the class to carry off a couple of Jimmy Lewis slow burners. On "How Long Is A Heartache Supposed To Last," he is simply awesome, and later gives a similarly great performance with excellent support on keyboards on "Real Live Livin' Hurtin' Man."
The rest of the covers include a fun romp through "Don't Mess Up A Good Thing" with fellow Texan Marcia Ball doubling up on vocals and piano. There is also a rendition of Allen Toussaint's "Get Out Of My Life Woman" which has an appropriately funky (New Orleans style) edge.
The five original tracks sit comfortably alongside the covers, showing Clark to be an accomplished writer too. They range from the punchy horns of "Bitchy Men," through the almost 70's disco "Got To Find A Lover," finally culminating in "I Keep Hanging On" which rounds things off. The latter has an almost juju beat to it, and sounds like the sort of tune that the Neville Brothers could have written. It is unmistakably Clark, however, and the fade at the end is all the prompting you need to hit the replay button on the CD player.
W.C. Clark's "From Austin With Soul" is one of the best blues albums of 2002, maintaining the very high standards set by its predecessors. Released too late for consideration in this year's Handy Awards, it will take some beating to the Best Soul/Blues album award next time around. W.C. Clark fans will probably already have it, but anyone who likes their blues with a whole lot of soul will love "From Austin With Soul". Highly recommended.
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This review is copyright © 2002 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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