Thursday, 3 October 2013

My Darling Clementine - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham Wednesday 2nd October 2013

The moment the stars of the show strolled through the audience to take their place on the stage, you knew the years were about to be rolled back with the unveiling of phase 2 of the My Darling Clementine project. The retro theme may have decorated the larger of the two Hare and Hounds music rooms, both in visual and sound terms, but the presentation by Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish ensures a contemporary relevance is added to their harnessing and re-interpreting of a golden age in duet inspired country music.

Twelve months on from gracing the very same venue with a helping to savour from their debut album, the duo assisted by a polished and experienced 5-piece band managed to raise the experience to a level likely to be unprecedented on the home grown circuit. My Darling Clementine have developed that bridging knack of taking what is a very traditional country sound and successfully reaching out to a wider country, roots and Americana audience. There is no need for pseudo American accents and ample tongue-in-cheek chat liberally fills their stage show but make no mistake the immense quality of song writing, musicianship and vocal delivery left an indelible mark on those fortunate to be present at this well-attended Birmingham gig.

For those who like a little structure to their gigs, Michael and Lou bookended their 90 minute performance with half a dozen tracks from the first album including the fabulous trio of ‘Going Back to Memphis’, ‘Departure Lounge’ and ‘Reserved for Me and You’. The middle section saw a near complete serving of the new record, THE RECONCILIATION?, and the fuller sound to these 11 tracks demonstrated the positive development the band have made in taking the concept of marital disharmony and evolving the sound without any degree of authentic compromise.

With the help of the opening artist, Paul Murphy, taking the role of Kinky Friedman mediating on the album’s opening track ‘Unhappily Ever After’, the songs from this highly commendable album were taken to greater heights with their live performance. The posters extravagantly proclaimed the tour as 'at these dance halls' and the ambience of this re-creation couldn’t have come across as any better. The high points of the middle segment were definitely the exceptional pair of tracks which cast away the subtleties of the first album being an ode to Tammy and George. Michael, combining his mature and re-assuring vocal style with acoustic guitar playing, took great pride in explaining the writing process that gave birth to the classic ‘The Gospel According to George’, while Lou adopted a fervent feminist stance on the emotional ‘No Matter What Tammy Said (I Won’t Stand By Him).

The accomplished band featuring Alan Cook on pedal steel, as well as mandolin on the Latino influenced ‘King of the Carnival’, did an exceptional job providing the backdrop to the intrinsic timing of Michael and Lou’s duet performance. The passion-induced and emotive-laced vocal delivery by Lou provides a critical dimension to her role in My Darling Clementine which flits from song writing to a little keyboard playing on the sentimental encore track ‘Miracle Mabel’, all mixed with a sense of dry irony to add spice to the onstage and audience banter.

This uplifting evening of pure country gold will live in the memory for an exceedingly long time and the talents of Michael and Lou should be cherished by all those intent on preserving a precious sound. There will no doubt come a point where big decisions on the future direction of the My Darling Clementine project will need to be made but in the meantime grab both albums, get down to your local dance hall and treat yourself to the delights of how proper country music should be made.

Set List: I Bought Some Roses. Going Back to Memphis. Departure Lounge. Unhappily Ever After. No Heart in this Heartache. I Can't Live Without You (When I Can't Live With Myself). Our Race is Run. Leave the Good Book on the Shelf. No Matter What Tammy Said (I Won't Stand by Him). I No Longer Take Pride. King of the Carnival. The Gospel According to George. Ashes, Flowers and Dust. Reserved for Me and You. Nothing Left to Say.Goodbye Week  Encore: Miracle Mabel, 100000 Words

Photos courtesy of Pete Saunders

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