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Published:March 12th, 2013 08:08 EST
My Darling Clementine`s 'How Do You Plead?' Is A Fresh Blast of Musty C & W Classic Tracks!

My Darling Clementine`s 'How Do You Plead?' Is A Fresh Blast of Musty C & W Classic Tracks!

By John G. Kays


My Darling Clementine`s How Do You Plead? is able to capture the old-timey past glories of classic Country and Western balladry in a new skin, a British skin. From song to song, the reference gallery of C & W All-Stars cascade across the internal screen of sonic memories (in your mind)


Lou Dalgeish`s channeling of Patsy Cline on The Other Half, where her songwriting and singing interpretation conjures the immaculate spirit of Patsy, who perished in a plane crash on March 5, 1963 (Patsy had predicted it) sums up this achievement of resurrecting pristine, antiquated C & W balladry.


The Nashville Mega-C & W Star Ghosts of the Past ambience is not overly intrusive, but rather it gives How Do You Plead? buoyancy and traction, respect for tradition and history, a missive of gratitude by way of strong songwriting and careful simple recordings, using antique instruments. 


Martin Belmont`s 1963 Fender Stratocaster or Jim Russell`s `67 Ludwig drum kit are two good examples. Going Back To Memphis showcases this superbly; listening to Michael Weston King`s composition on headphones, I`m transported back to the Broken Spoke in the mid-1970s.


For now, Going Back To Memphis is the keeper on my digital turntable; calls to mind some of Glen Campbell`s greats, such as his 1968 hit, Wichita Lineman, written by Jimmy Webb. King and Dalgeish are both accomplished songwriters and it shows; they`ve studied their forebears, mining a few hooks here and there, without stealing the apple pie cooling on the window sill (but maybe sneaking a slice or two).


I will say, however, the English duo (who are man and wife and have noticeable New Wave roots) wisely shape the songs and instruments (the backing tracks) around their focused goal of spotlighting the vocals.


A nice lyric booklet accompanies the tastefully packaged record, whose cover pic was clever enough to lure me into a purchase, without having heard even one note of My Darling Clementine. I thought, `good art, maybe the music`s good also?` It panned out in this case (it doesn`t always). 


I read the lyrics for details, while listening to the songs on headphones. This is all about simulating the classic country duet, ala Johnny Cash/June Carter or George Jones/Tammy Wynette; Reserved For Me and You accomplishes this best.


My curiosity is piqued by what techniques were utilized in the studio; Gold Top Studios in London was MDC`s choice. Sounds like it`s an analog recording, but I can`t confirm this. Just touches the ears so natural and down-home-antique, like it`s been recorded in Memphis at Sun Studios in the late 1950s. 


Listen to Departure Lounge for the way it was recorded; each instrument is distinct: Bob Loveday`s violin, Alan Cook`s pedal Steel Guitar, or Geraint Watkins` Weber 150 piano (Oops, I forgot Kevin Foster`s 1962 Fender Precision Bass). Were the instruments laid down first, then the vocals overdubbed?


I could use a few workshop tips from Gold Top Studios` audio engineers! I`m just saying this (not joking actually), since I sensed they must have miked the instruments just right, keeping the volume down and getting a soft, undistorted tone. I wonder what type of mikes they used on individual instruments, whether it was on amplifiers, drums, or for vocal takes? Great final mix too; yet this isn`t possible if the raw takes weren`t done correctly in the first place!


A quintessential litmus test of a great (time immemorial) record, is whether it will continue to visit your turntable, after an initial impulsive purchase, where you robotically lift a slab of vinyl on the turntable and place the needle down on a groove, repeatedly. 


That`s happening for me with How Do You Plead?, which is a positive harbinger for this record`s future, whether it is one of endurance and longevity, or an unpleasant sojourn to the wrecking yards of the accursed CUT-OUT-BIN (the elephant graveyard for bummer music projects)!


  My Darling Clementine is playing live for SXSW - Wednesday, 3/13/`13 at Rebel`s Honky Tonk (305 W. 5th Street) at around 9 PM.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/p4m5