Blues Bytes


March 2014

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W.C. Clark
Heart of Gold
Black Top Records

W.C. Clark

The first time I ever heard W.C. Clark perform was on an Austin City Limits performance from the late ’80s, where he was celebrating his 50th birthday with some of Austin’s best musicians, including Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, Lou Ann Barton, Kim Wilson, and Angela Strehli. At the time, I knew every one of the other artists, but not Clark. All I knew of him was what I heard that night…that he had been a part of the original incarnation of Double Trouble, with SRV and Barton.

What I didn’t know until much later was that Clark was one of the city’s original blues artists, starting out at age 16 playing bass in T.D. Bell’s band while learning to play guitar. After a stint as Joe Tex’s guitarist, Clark returned to Austin and played a huge role in the early development of the music scene, forming multiple bands with many of the city’s future greats, including the Vaughan brothers, Barton, Strehli, and Denny Freeman. I also didn’t know at the time of that Austin City Limits broadcast that Clark had co-written (with keyboard player Mike Kindred) my favorite SRV song, “Cold Shot.”

In 1994, Clark signed with Black Top Records and released Heart of Gold. While he was associated mostly with the gritty Austin roadhouse blues sound that he helped to formulate, this, Clark’s second release, took a side trip, to the northeast around Memphis, for a wonderful helping of greasy soul, such as the Isaac Hayes/David Porter composition, “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” (originally done by Johnnie Taylor) and Benny Latimore’s classic, “Let’s Straighten It Out.”

Clark also covers a pair of tunes associated with B.B. King in “Don’t Make Me Pay for His Mistakes” and “I Want to Get Married,” and a horn-driven tune written by Steve Gomes and Ronnie Earl (the exuberant “I Want to Shout About It”). The remainder of the disc consists of his own compositions, the highlights including the title track, “You’ve Got to Love Me,” and “Make My Guitar Talk, Talk, to You.” He also reworks “Cold Shot,” as a homage to Vaughan.

Did I mention the last couple of things that I wasn’t aware of about W.C. Clark prior to the Austin City Limits show? He’s one of the finest singers you will hear, equally at home with a rugged blues number or a silky soul tune. He’s also a first-rate guitarist, too, and on this disc, he’s joined by some of Austin’s finest musicians, including Double Trouble (Tommy Shannon – bass, Chris Layton –drums) on a couple of tracks, Derek O’Brien on guitar, Riley Osbourn on keyboards, Fran Christina on drums, and Sarah Brown on bass.

Clark released two subsequent albums for Black Top, then a couple for Alligator, and one self-released disc in 2011, but Heart of Gold still stands as his strongest release and the best example of what he’s capable of as an artist.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog


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