Named after a 1946 John Ford Western, which had itself borrowed its title from a Nineteenth Century American folk song, My Darling Clementine is a vehicle for the songwriting and vocals talents of Lou Dalgleish and Anglo-Americana stalwart, Michael Weston King. But whilst King’s previous interpretation of country music, both with The Good Sons and as a solo artist, displayed a distinctly alternative edge, the duets here are more George and Tammy than Gram and Emmylou.
Despite some hints of honky-tonk and rockabilly, much of the material on ‘How Do You Plead?’ is pure Nashville Sound. You could easily imagine it topping the country charts in the ‘50s or ‘60s; all it is really missing is some saccharine orchestration. Many of songs are… — AmericanaUK 8/10
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…unashamed weepies, performed without a hint of irony, so as to leave you in no doubt that the album is meant as a loving recreation rather than a pastiche. This may alienate some of King’s previous fans, but those who remain will immediately recognise that he has last none of his ability to craft an affecting melody or turn a lyrical phrase.
The earnestness of the sentiment behind the songs is invariably leavened by a wry and incisive couplet. Similarly, many of the tracks are performed with King and Dalgleish trading lines or verses, often playing the part of estranged lovers, giving the material a friction which acts as a counterpoint to the musical consonance. It is axiomatic that such an album wouldn’t work if King and Dalgleish’s vocals didn’t fit together quite so perfectly. But nor would it be so compelling without such a redoubtable backing band.
The bulk of the group comprises of former pub-rock luminaries, including Nick Lowe regular Geraint Watkins and the legendary guitarist Martin Belmont, once of Ducks Deluxe and The Rumour. Meanwhile, former Good Son Alan Cook adds pedal steel, whilst Bob Loveday, from the less-likely source of Penguin Café Orchestra, contributes violin. If the album has a fault, it’s that at fifty minutes, it is slightly overlong. This, however, is due to a uniformity of mood rather than a surplus of filler. Indeed, in their own right, each song here is beyond reproach, to the extent that it is impossible to select individual highlights. Every one could be mistaken for a classic Nashville standard and whilst this authenticity may deter some listeners, for others it will represent an uncannily well-crafted evocation of a vintage sound.