Exclusive ND First Spin: My Darling Clementine – ‘How Do You Plead?’ (Five Head Entertainment)
Dang if those Brits don’t have a handle on our homespun traditions. Just look at how the Stones and Led Zep refurbished the Blues, or how Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Robert Plant took to Country music and molded it to their own designs.
Clearly, those lessons weren’t lost on Michael Weston King, a relentless Anglo troubadour whose earlier efforts have encompassed his efforts at the helm of the Good Sons, collaborations with Chris Hillman, Ron Sexsmith and the late Townes Van Zandt, and an entire album of protest tunes reworked in the Greenwich Village tradition. Now, King’s actually reinvented himself by teaming with his wife of nine years, Lou Dalgeish, and branding the duo as My Darling Clementine. As the name so obviously implies, the immersion in Americana is pure and complete, a fact made all the more apparent in the songs themselves. Nearly all sound like standards, each offering the impression that they could serve as jukebox staples and plucked from the repertoire of Johnny and June, George and Patsy or Gram and Emmylou.
What’s also clear is that King’s obviously infatuated with each of these forebears; like Raul Malo of the Mavericks, he has the vocal chops and songwriting savvy to tweak the template and affirm his own authenticity. Dalgeish does the same, owing to an authority and determination previously seen in those she emulates so well. The duo’s convictions are clear, be it the tearstained ballads “By a Thread,” “Put Your Hair Back” and “I Bought Some Roses” or the breezy honky tonk that engages “Nothing Left To Stay,” “100,000 Words” and “Reserved For Me and You.” Add to that several layers of weepy steel guitar, a driving trucker song “Going Back To Memphis” and the soulful “She Is Still My Weakness,” and the end result is a country classic that’s apparent from the get-go. Whereas others tend to take the template and opt for parody, My Darling Clementine shows reverence and due diligence, and consequently it’s telling that even the sole non-original, a cover of George Harrison’s “It’s All Too Much,” surprisingly maintains the same rootsy regimen. Consequently, the answer to the question posed in the album title is clear. How Do You Plead? yields one response: simply exceptional.
See what you think and share your first impressions in the comments. If you like the music, pick it up at your local record store or order online!
(Sponsored by Five Head Entertainment)