Caught red-handed, British bluesman gets down ‘n’ dirty on a killing floor.
While many artists who emerged in the ’60s are content to rest on the blissful side of blues, Mick Clarke is still demonstrating enviable vigor on its raw surface. Even more fierce than a Luxembourg set from 2002 – available as a free download – this concert album, recorded in Surrey in 2015, finds the veteran’s trio laying down heavy groove on classic numbers. It’s hard to get more gutsy than on the guitarist’s take on Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love” but if that’s a finely frenetic finale, there’s a roar rolling from Mick’s rumble on Elmore James’ “Happy Home” onward, a seductive slider caressing the fretboard.
With a filigree strum on “Good Morning Blues” where Eddie Masters’ bass and Chris Sharley’s drums chop a solid bedrock, Clarke turns to a twang to verge on the edge of chaos yet never cross the tuneful line, and the Diddley beat of “Little Rachel” has a well-measured grace to it. And if the hefty riffs and string pinches of “Love Me Or Leave Me” unhurriedly, over 9 minutes, pack a powerful punch, Mick’s own much more playful “Rockin’ The Blues” is a great wigout for the ensemble, the veteran wringing a double dose of melody out of his instrument.
So the “looking for quantity” refrain of “Cheap” – also from 1993’s “Tell The Truth” – can hardly be applied here, in the field of bare-nerve quality. Rough: that’s how the blues should be delivered, and that’s how it’s done here. An exemplary performance.