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The Graham Weekly Album Review #1670

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Carrie Clark the Lonesome Lovers: Between the Bed Sheets and Turpentine

by George Graham

(Independent Release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 1/11/2012)

One the more intriguing trends over the last couple of years is the growing number of bands who look to pre-rock styles for their influence, and a fair number have female lead vocalists who have absorbed those styles. A few years ago, the Squirrel Nut Zippers enjoyed some unexpected commercial success, and there were the Asylum Street Spankers. But in the past year or two there have been some interesting and fun recordings by groups like the Puppini Sisters, Katzenjammer, Bella Ruse, the Leftover Cuties, and Gaucho to name but a few. This week, we have another CD by a female artist who looks to vaudeville, music hall and torch songs for inspiration, but who also incorporates a fairly wide range of more contemporary styles. It's Carrie Clark and the Lonesome Lovers, and their new CD, Ms. Clark's fourth is called Between the Bed Sheets and Turpentine.

Carrie Clark is a singer-songwriter based in Seattle. Born in Oregon, she took up music at an early age, being self-taught on guitar and piano. Among the music she was absorbed while growing up were Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys and ABBA. That rather wide scope of influence also comes into play with the various groups she has worked with, performing in a folk duo, a more conventional rock band and singing with a jazz big band.

Ms. Clark is an astute lyricist and her songs are largely lyric-driven, with the different influences being drawn upon to tell her musical stories, but the stylistic eclecticism is also worthwhile in and of itself. Her band the Lonesome Lovers also help to engender that stylistic diversity by including mandolin, accordion, ukulele, plus some varied percussion, to go with Ms. Clark's own acoustic guitar and piano. There's also a string section which appears on a couple of tracks. The Lonesome Lovers include Greg Fulton who plays various stringed and keyboard instruments; bassist Dave Pascal; drummers and percussionists Kohen Burrill and Kevin Emerson; and accordion specialist Rob Witmer. The accordion adds to the evocation of styles of an earlier generation, but it's often paired with the mandolin which can give a folky or even bluegrass quality.

Though the album is rather stylistically diverse, it comes across as musically coherent, with Ms. Clark's vocals and songwriting holding it all together. Ms. Clark often writes tunes in a minor key, and that also helps to evoke an earlier era. Ms. Clark's publicity bio says that the songs on the CD were generally inspired by events in her life, but there is a fairly wide range of characters in various stages of relationships, and situations.

The generous 56-minute, 13-track CD opens with one of its more appealing and memorable songs Bum Bah Dum, which illustrates some of the theatrical quality of the music. It's about a kind of seductress and her effect on of her victims. <<>>

Evoking a similar kind of musical mood is Chilly Wind, which sets a kind of scene more than delving into a relationship. <<>>

Taking a rather different musical direction is I'm a Lark, which again features the prominent mixture of mandolin and accordion, but with a sound that evokes folk, both musically and lyrically. It's nicely executed. <<>>

What Have We Done takes yet a different musical heading. Lyrically, it 's an old-fashioned environmental song, with music that reminiscent of something out of a the sound track for an old Western movie. It's an interesting and creative combination. <<>>

The album's title "Between the Bed Sheets and Turpentine" comes from the a song called The Night Before, another creative pastiche of influences, that in this case vaguely evoke klezmer music. <<>>

The added orchestral instruments make their appearance on Fade Away, a contemplative-sounding song about a sad woman. <<>>

A composition called The Stranger is another of the CD's highlights. It's about creepy characters and situations. It brings together a lot of the stylistic ingredients and shows Ms. Clark and the band's ability to weave them together for an energetic and appealing track. <<>>

As a contrast to that is the tune that ends the CD, a lullaby called Sing Me, a nice conclusion to a sometimes fast-paced musical trip from one distination to the next. <<>>

Between the Bed Sheets and Turpentine, the new CD from Carrie Clark and the Lonesome Lovers joins the ranks of recordings by groups who evoke pre-rock styles for some of their inspiration. But unlike some of the others who concentrate on that kind of sound, Ms. Clark and her band use that as but one of several elements of their music. The result is a wide-ranging album that's appealing lyrically and musically astute. Ms. Clark is a first-rate songwriter whose compositions are definitely enhanced by the diverse styles she and her colleagues draw upon. Her band's versatility is a big factor in the CD's clever eclecticism.

Our grade for sound quality is an "A-minus." The mix enhances the musical diversity, the sound is clean and generally uncluttered by studio effects, with Ms. Clark's vocals well-handled. But as is so often the case, the sound is excessively compressed, robbing the recording of the ebb and flow of the dynamics in a misguided effort to make the recording loud.

If you are a fan of the influence of styles from the days long before rock, this has been a rather good year or two. Carrie Clark and the Lonesome Lovers go beyond just recreating a nostalgic sound, and use those influences as one part of a rather wide-ranging mix in essentially a very eclectic and worthwhile singer-songwriter record.

(c) Copyright 2012 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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This page last updated January 16, 2012