The architects of the My Darling Clementine project are that stalwart of the UK Americana scene Michael Weston King and his talented wife Lou Dalgleish, showcasing her vocal and writing expertise, with also no doubt a little keyboard playing added to the live show. Under the guidance of co-producer Colin Elliott, and with the aid of players from Richard Hawley’s band who has also worked with the same producer, THE RECONCILIATION? is a 12 song 51 minute duet extravaganza that is slightly more experimental than its predecessor especially in the horn accompaniment and Latino feel to ‘King of the Carnival’ which provides a Mexican slant to the theme of post marital break-up. Other critics have aligned this to the work of the great border songwriter Tom Russell and this is not a bad comparison.
Aside the solitary cover of Ronnie Self’s ‘I Can’t Live With You (When You Can’t Live With Yourself)’, Michael and Lou have carved up the song writing between them, either in collaboration or solo, as well as entwining their vocal content on a range of contrasting songs such as the closing pair of up tempo ‘Let’s Be Unhappy’ and the sentimental lullaby finale ‘Miracle Mabel’. The finesse of Lou’s vocals perfectly complement the solidity of Michael’s on this batch of strong melodies and tunes which emotionally mirror their contextual themes. There is no finer musical moment on this record than when Alan Cook’s pedal steel takes centre stage and adds a decorous atmospheric elegance to the proceedings.
Those familiar with the first album would have been struck with the undertones of aching memories of Tammy and George in their prime. This album is far more explicit in its references with the Weston-King penned ‘The Gospel According to George’ and Lou’s delightful ode ‘No Matter What Tammy Said (I Won’t Stand By Him)’ adding spice to the theme of seemingly doomed reconciliation attempts. Throughout the record the pain of the first album’s split is prevalent commencing with the opening track ‘Unhappily Ever After’ where the iconic Texan maverick Kinky Friedman makes a guest vocal contribution. Yet signs of common ground finally emerge in the emotion wrenching ‘Ashes, Flowers and Dust’.
No standout track is being offered for this record as its beauty is in the entity and the temptation to randomly play should be avoided in order to maximise the listening experience. It was mooted in reviews of the previous album in the creative viability of a live chronological rendition in order to recount the narrative. Despite having a scene setting spritely opener and a thought provoking closer, the tracks of THE RECONCILIAITION? are more random in their arrangement for this to form a similar possibility. Yet the comparative exceptional quality of both albums will make them an essential dual pleasure.
Without hesitation this album must be added to your ‘to get’ list and in an age of easily accessible downloads with all the luxury of this innovation, the magnificently reproduced CD package adds an authentic flavour that will rival any vinyl version of this record. Michael and Lou have definitely successfully delivered via their My Darling Clementine project and the fruits of their craft are now there to be savoured by those moved by a creative style of music-making that will never die.