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Jon Clark: One Long Skid-Vol 1

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One Long Skid, Vol. 1 - Jon Clark

One Long Skid - Jon Clark

 

 

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"What's the rush?"

One Long Skid Volume 2 is the follow-up to Clark’s 2011 initial volume of the One Long Skid series, and it provides listeners with some of the most eclectic and well thought-out rock music that they have heard. The guitar lick that begins Mr. Fix-It Man is emotive, alluring, and tells a tremendous story even before the rough and road-weary vocals of Clark begin. These vocals straddle the line between Bob Dylan and Ian Anderson, while the production of this initial track is at a level that current generations of music fans can appreciate.

Cloud and a Deed is a more trippy and expansive effort that showcases the technical skill of each musical instrument on the composition; hints of late Beach Boys, America, or Wings can be heard here. Don’t Tell Me Now is a folk-rock track in the vein of Credence Clearwater Revival, provided with an additional layer of complexity through the inclusion of a very soulful, choir-like backing that becomes active at various points during the cut. Many Friends is the final track on Volume 2 of One Long Skid, and it hammers home the comparison to the mid-sixties output of Bob Dylan; an immediate harmonica line immediately draw attention to the story that Clark tells here. The album ends emphatically with a number of different styles and approaches broached; this is one filling effort.

Make sure to visit Clark’s website for further information about his discography, additional press coverage, and an in depth biography that will provide considerable context to this stellar performer.

Top Tracks: Mr. Fix-It Man, Cloud and a Deed

Rating: 9.0/10

Since the early ‘70s Jon Clark has been writing his own brand of folk/rock but it wasn’t till recently that some of that material got to see the light of day. Clark recently released One Long Skid Vol.1 and Vol.2, which contain songs that were written decades ago as well as some that were written just a few years ago. Taking a listen to the music it’s impossible to differentiate between what was written in what decade as it all has a similar feel. I had an opportunity to delve into Vol.2, which will resonate with fans of The Grateful Dead (in particular Jerry Garcia), Neil Young and generally most Americana folk/rock from the ‘60s. 

The music on One Long Skid Vol.2 is mellow, loose and psychedelic. It’s an easy listen that should relax you and let you chill out. The music isn’t intense but it is engaging. Clark’s music utilizes rich instrumentation into technically well-written songs.

The album opens with one of the highlights entitled “Mr. Fix-It Man,” which combines a warm rock organ, bass, horns and electric lead guitar with very subtle distortion. Clark’s voice sounds undeniably aligned with ‘60s Americana and definitely has traces of Jerry Garcia as well as Bob Dylan. It’s a style of singing you don’t find too often in this day and age. The song’s climax for me was the excellent, blaring horn section that was pure ear candy.

“Trip the Wire” contains some guitar solos you won’t want to miss while “Better Take Cover” was an instantly catchy melody that will easily get stuck in your head. That horn section in “Better Take Cover” is spot on. You can’t help but think of “Ripple” by the Grateful Dead when you hear “Nobody Special” if only because of a similarly played mandolin.

Clark breaks out a harmonica for “Road Crew Lover” as well as on the closer “Many Friends.” ”Many Friends” is rather sparse and emits emotions such as nostalgia and melancholy.

One Long Skid Vol. 2 contains ten songs and most of the songs eclipse the five-minute mark. The album does take some time to get through but don’t think you will be disappointed if you take the journey.

Jon Clark states, “One Long Skid is a collection of songs about the delicate balance in life, staying upright, falling down, getting up, or staying down.”  His album is adorably clunky, like a more expert jug band, or like an old locomotive that begins to lock up from years of rust, then surges ahead in its ancient determination.  Clark’s sound is friendly and well-meaning, with an injuriousness that has resisted the temptation to bitterness.  Clark likes to spend time with a song, never pruning its length to cater to an audience of short attention spans.  Just as it begins to seem that one of his songs is continuing excessively,
Clark’s music patiently draws the ear back in, without tricky or formulaic manipulation, inviting it to respect the natural lifespan of the song with an experienced, beckoning smile.

“Running Wheel” has that roadside sense of immaterial freedom, a banjo/acoustic cornucopia of loose-knit freewheeling instrumentation.  With the simultaneously agreeable and aggressive character of the banjo at the fore, “Running Wheel” is a pleasant song to have around, filling the listening environment with sounds that make the world okay and indicate that honesty is alive.  “Why Was It Time” brings in an organ that should play a greater part in the Clark canon.  A vulnerable love song with heartful yearnings for the regaining of a specific other, “Why Was It Time” forays into something resembling Haiku, with lines like, “Does the mark you left just get covered in dust, or blown away, just like fine sand?”, begging the question of whether whatever fracture Clark speaks of was ever real or only illusion.  Though Clark is unashamedly crunchy, somewhere inside the rough edges can be detected a groovy sharpness. He’s like Chris Isaak, with whom he shares an ability to spin mysterious webs of beauty with an ingenuity delivered through deceptive simplicity.  His music retires the childlike ignorance of that quizzical Japanese paradox of oceanic depth below the sparkling lightness of the sea’s surface.

“Teacher” starts with arena-filling jam band searching and soaring notes that fill the aural sky.  The song has noble (yet aged) antinuclear arms race aims, but it’s the first of Clark’s offerings on the album to display a downtick of lyrical quality.  “Little Mike” waxes nostalgic with heavy schoolroom and neighborhood childhood imagery.  Though “Little Mike” tells the travails of a troublemaking menace, its wah-wah pedal-pushing solos don’t congeal to the psychedelic effect of the device’s usual purpose.  The solos aren’ t angry or miserable enough to represent an angst-ridden backlash response to the theme of teacher oppression.  Lyrical brittleness continues, and the suggestion of adding distortion comes to mind to help update the student’s rage.

Slightly late vocal entries and just-behind guitar strumming somehow work towards a fitting rusticity for “Two-Stroke Stan”, which tells of the life of a lumberjack and his incidental death by the felling of “the devil’s tree”.  Though the woodsman submits to the dangers of his trade, Clark leaves Stan’s legend unvanquished, honoring the main character’s everyday courage in fulfilling his pure and manly vocation.  “Last Furrow” shows a John Cougar Mellencamp level of concern for the small American farmer.  An excellent portrait of the devastation of a failed agricultural life, the reek of the farmer’s “empty barn” and the chill of its “ghostly cold” fills the listener’s senses with
hallucinatory effect against a bleak and grey backdrop of utter abandonment.

“Snake Killer” picks back up that jug band hop, the man enthusiastically rambling like an Allman Brothers trip.  Clark is the hypothetical embodiment of what the Traveling Wilburys would have been if all of its members hadn’t been multimillionaires.  Good news with the next song, “What’s One More”!  That organ’s back!, adding orchestral dimension to an odd song that meanders with interest.  ”What’s One More” opens the mind with its elusive narrative, attracting the listener by its vagary.  It hooks the listener in as does the classic “Whiter Shade of Pale” with the appeal found in its admissibly encrypted meaning.

“I Didn’t Know” hearkens closely to Clark’s obvious Dylanesque roots, with harmonica blowing filling in between verses.  It’s a sparse and explanatory, yet unapologetic, song with less ambition that “The Times They Are A-Changing”, yet as straightforward in its simple folksiness.

Clark can capture current audiences by playing up his eccentric poeticism (or is it poetic eccentricity?) and intentionally rough musicianship.  However, these potentialities will have to emerge from, then go beyond, an entrenched and nourished Woodstockian mellowness that may put limits on his creative options.  Audiences want confidence, and Clark can gain their affections by playing up the aforementioned strengths.  By being a sage of conquered mental mountains and snaring emotional pitfalls, Clark imparts valuable comfort to his fellow listeners with the intention of healing.  Clark’s music is an accompaniment to those who pursue the good life, making it easy to visualize a gathering of friends sharing good times and bad with his voice broadcasting hope in the background.

Singer/songwriter Jon Clark spins some well crafted Folk/Rock music on his latest CD, “One Long Skid-Vol 1.” As a songwriter, Clark weaves some interesting lyrics about the trials and tribulations of life while his laid back vocals complement these insightful songs. There is a terrific versatility of instruments as you will hear not only guitar, drums, organ, and bass, but there are a couple of songs with banjo and harmonica. The opener, “Running Wheel,” has a delightful bouncy beat with nice elements of Country instrumentation. Another song, “Teacher,” emits a smooth groove as the guitar ignites with soulful riffs that swirl around the emotive vocals. “What’s One More,” flows with a free flowing form as this song has a relaxed intonation and reaches into your heart and soul. Fans of Neil Young will really appreciate the finely crafted Folk/Rock songs on the excellent album, “One Long Skid-Vol1.”

 

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