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ROD CLEMENTS "Stamping Ground" Market Square MSMCD107

Lindisfarne's now front man Rod Clements might have been born in the North east of England, but his spiritual home is Bakersfield CA. This apparent dichotomy is literally illustrated on the insert booklet of his first solo album where his old black American car (with a 'blue interior' sung about on track 3) is backdropped by pit-head winding gear, but this is a CD that's an affectionate joy from beginning to end. The opening title track, a mid-paced slice of 'this-is-where-I'm-at' New Country, the hard rockin' 'Whole Lifestyle Thing' and the wide screen '90s style production by Chris While collaborator Nigel Stonier sound strangely familiar on first listen. Maybe it's because Rod has spent 30 years playing with many and varied rootsters that as he points out "these songs are the product of everything I've ever heard or read", but this is no out of date collection.

In these folk-blues-meets-country grooves, there's a winning character about such as 'One More Night With You', a quietly touching elegy to ex-Byrdman, Gene Clark on 'Cowboy in the Rain' and a plaintive middle-distance gaze to 'Roads of East Northumberland' that make this release never less than utterly riveting. The choice of guests is good, taking in Kathryn Tickell through Sid Griffin (ex-Long Rider/Cole Porter) with a deft touch of Thea Gilmore on vocals.

'Charity Main's' sombre reflection on the North's industrial wipe-out is balanced by the exuberant 'Whisky Highway' where guitars chime like church bells on a Spring morning and there's a sense that no one was just going through the motions at Frog Studios in late 1999. When the album closes with Rod and his Dobro on 'Old Blue Goose' you know you're not the only one grinning. It can't fail to brighten your day.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 43 of The Living Tradition magazine.