By Mary-Ann Brandon
Incarnation (The Songs of Robert Johnson)
Taxim Records 1062-2 TA
It’s hard to imagine the thought of bringing something new, something fresh to the music of Robert Johnson. In fact, it is common to feel beaten over the head when hearing blues/rock artists attempt to interpret his music.
In 1980, Huerfano County’s own Clark Dimond collaborated with a group of musicians and actors in New York City to shed some new light on the music of one of America’s great musical treasures. At the time of the recording, the first known photograph of Robert Johnson had just recently been found to be in possession of Johnson’s sister. Having been shrouded in such mystery, Dimond endeavored to bring his vision to fruition by recording this project. The idea put forth was “what if Robert Johnson had made it to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall instead of being murdered?” What would have happened if he had gone on to live and become an elder statesman of the Jazz/Folk/Blues revival scene? At the time of this recording Robert Johnson would have been in his sixties and the idea is as tantalizing as, say, what if Jimi Hendrix had not died such an untimely death?
Recorded in New York City, brilliantly mastered in Gardner, Colorado by “Bob Mellow” and released by Taxim Records in 2008, the disk is a wonderful interpretation of several classic and a couple of very obscure Johnson tunes. The cast of musicians includes a young Tucker Smallwood (prolific Hollywood actor) on vocals and Arlen Roth who contributes lovely guitar work. The band is rounded out by: Pat Conte, T.C. James, Jerry Jemmott and Herb Lovelle.
What is produced is an entirely enjoyable and listenable disk, from start to finish. Of particular interest are the sublime liner notes by Director/Executive Producer, Clark Dimond. His notes transport the listener back to the recording sessions and provide an historical context for the project. Highly recommended!
Clark Dimond’s A Clarkwork Orange
(No label listed)
A Clarkwork Orange is a collection of songs, interpreted by Clark Dimond, by some of the best of the mid to late 20th century American songwriters. On this disk, Dimond is joined by fellow Huerfano County musicians, Bob Mellow, Bo Seawell and Danielle Goodrich (as engineer and producer).
Dimond’s voice is not a singer’s singer voice. Instead, try to imagine a cross between John Prine and Kris Kristofferson, a soulful sound that is not overly concerned with technical perfection. This is a guy who opens his mouth and sings, period.
The production is sparse with a strong Americana approach. Dimond’s clawhammer banjo is particularly enjoyable on this recording. Clearly, he has great taste in songs. The songwriters he covers include Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Townes Van Zant, Blind Willie McTell, Woody Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Del McCoury, Dock Boggs, Buddy Holly, Carly Simon, Margaret Rich (wife of Charlie Rich) and the Glimmer Twins (Jagger/Richards).
Not readily available, worth seeking out.