April 2009

Mickey Clark - Winding Highways
Ear X-tacy Records EARX 9654
Format: CD
Released: 2009

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Mickey Clark’s strong vocals are subtly artistic in ways you might not notice till a third listen or so. Engaging the listener with first-rate melodies and heartfelt, poetic lyrics, Clark’s Winding Highways nicely matches specially selected guest artists with songs where they sing or play. Right off, we hear Robin and Linda Williams’ solid harmony in "Red Velvet Cake," which also showcases Clark’s verbal concreteness:

Racin’ through the rollin’ hills of bluegrass
The taste of honeysuckle on my tongue....

Master mandolinist Sam Bush does a number on that track and a couple of others. Turley Richards harmonizes on the calmly paced "In the Blink of an Eye," which Clark also co-wrote. Jerry Jeff Walker shares lead vocals on the late Utah Phillips’s "Goodnight Loving Trail," where the Williamses also ride again. On a rollicking "Don’t Piss on My Boots and Tell Me It’s Raining," John Prine, Kinky Friedman, Clark, and Walker take turns at the vocal helm. Tim Krekel plays a soft, reflective electric-guitar solo on Paul Siebel’s classic "Louise," which features a tour-de-force vocal ending by Clark that you’ll have to hear to believe.

Many other fine players support the songs’ compelling vocals. They, Clark’s commanding voice, and meticulous production keep it sounding like one band playing an intriguing variety of songs. Clark may not be a household name, but going on four decades he’s worked with and been praised by many of the best country and folk musicians. Winding Highways could mark a high point even in more famous careers. Hearing it should top any singer-songwriter aficionado’s to-do list.