Sunday, July 22, 2012

William Clarke Was Rockin' The Boat

Watchdog Records has just reissued Rockin’ the Boat, a live performance by the late William Clarke that was recorded at the Starboard Attitude in April 1987 and originally issued on Rivera Records. It has Clarke backed by an excellent band of Joel Foy on guitar; Willie Brinlee on the acoustic bass; Fred Kaplan on piano; and Eddie ‘Lips’ Clark on drums with Leonardo Watkins singing on one of the eight selections here.

The William Clarke Blues Band sounded pretty solid this evening opening with Clarke’s Deal The Cards, an original shuffle that sports Clarke’s convincing vocals and big-tone on the harmonica with the band solidly behind him and Foy takes an incisive solo. Clarke and Band reworks Sonny Boy Williamson’s Keep It To Yourself, setting it to the Help Me/ Green Onions, melody with Foy blasting off on a tough solo. It is followed by a feature for Foy on Jimmy McGriff’s All About My Girl, that will be familiar from Albert Collins recording of it. Foy displays considerable technique and imagination in his driving guitar workout.

St. Louis Jimmy’s I Had My Fun (aka Going Down Slow) is taken at a nice medium pace opening with Clarke ‘s vigorous vocal and dynamic harmonica and Kaplan comping behind the vocal before taking a solo. It is followed by Watkins singing a medley of Jimi Hendrix’s Red House and B.B. King’s Just a Little Bit of Love. It is taken as a shuffle with Clarke adding some solid saxophone-like harmonica playing. A lengthy rendition of Iodine In My Coffee follows with swinging and rocking solos from Clarke (telling everybody “let me play my harmonica”) and Kaplan, while Foy adds fills and chords to help push the performance on.

Clarke lays out for the atmospheric After Hours that puts the spotlight Kaplan with his late night piano feel before launching into the closing feverish jump blues,Boogie Woogie Woman, with Foy channeling Willie Johnson and Joe Willie Wilkins in his accompaniment. Its a rocking conclusion to a welcome Clarke reissue. Clarke would grow and mature as a performer and songwriter in the years following this performance, but there is nothing immature about the music heard here. He may have been rocking the boat that April night, but the music still will rock most any house today.

I purchased this from I note the CD is not listed as available from amazon but it is available as mp3 files.

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