Thursday, June 5, 2008

Artist Spotlight: Mike McClure (part 3)

Part 1 ~ Part 2

The time between Camelot Falling and Mike's McClure's next album, Foam, (nearly 2 years) was time well spent. Now very comfortable at the production reins and with no label to answer to, Mike was able to take his time and carefully piece together a new record.

Feeling the need to spend more time with his wife and two daughters, he converted a room of his home in Ada, OK into a personal studio. 'The Library', as he calls it, is a place where Mike can go to goof off (being an avid reader of his rambles, i know he does this a lot), get away, or simply lay down some vocal tracks, guitar licks, or pieces of ideas for songs. He began to spend less time at the Dirtybird Recording studios and devised a plan for sending his recordings electronically to other folks, having them tweaked, and getting them back. One of these 'other folks' was legendary engineer Joe Hardy. Mike began sending Joe his vocal tracks and they would come back perfected with slight effects that seemed to only accentuate Mike's style.

The bulk of Foam, however, was recorded in Houston, TX at The Foam Room - Billy Gibbons' (ZZ Top) famed recording studio. Mike, being a sucker for 80's rock, was just a little excited to be working in such a storied studio. This excitement translated into inspiration that came through on the record. Foam is highlighted by some of the finest guitar work Mike has a ever put together - with just a touch of that classic ZZ Top swagger.

November 2006

mp3: Mike McClure Band - I Know
mp3: Mike McClure Band - Saints In The Twilight
mp3: Mike McClure Band - Belly of the Beast

Foam is 10 tracks of superb production. If the beginnings or ends of some of the songs sound funny, that's because the CD rolls continuously throughout without track breaks. I Know is track 1 and Saints is track 2, so check 'em out back to back. Mike resurrected yet another Great Divide song here with Floods. Although released back in 2000, it's one of Mike's best writing achievements to date. Personally, i prefer the theatrical feel of the original recording of the song - it has a long intro of sounds of rain that Mike recalls recording into a tape player while standing on the porch of the Will Rogers Theatre where the band's Afterglow was recorded.

The album is the first to feature the new three piece MMB - Mike and drummer Eric Hanson dropped their lead guitarist (Mike took over the duties) and hired a new bass player. Tom Skinner had been milling around the Red Dirt scene since its inception. He and Mike met at 'The Farm' - an old farmhouse that served as a haven for many Oklahoma songwriters, young and old. Skinner penned the song Used To Be (recorded by The Great Divide) that has become the unofficial anthem of Red Dirt music. His impeccable timing and upper-range tenor perfectly complement Mike's fine-grained gravel voice.

May 2008

mp3: Mike McClure Band - Like An Idiot
mp3: Mike McClure Band - The Eagle and the Crow

Mike's most recent album, did7 (don't ask me what it means....), was just released on May 6. i feel like, on this one, Mike held back on the Rock N Roll, and put together a record with impeccable writing. Sometimes the lines are simple, but sometimes simple works just fine.

"guess i should start at the top/seems like a logical place."
"let me dance like an idiot for you/you laugh, you laugh/yeah you always do."

While preparing for this record, doctors found a tumor in Mike's daughter Marleigh. Possibly due to Mike's heavy spiritual side, the tumor was removed and all is well. The constant hopeful demeanor she maintained throughout the ordeal is expressed in Little Sister Sunshine.

"little sister standin' in the sunshine laughin'/reminds me it ain't no good to be sad/little sister runnin' through the backyard yellin'/yellin' at big sister and your dad."

Mike's ability to take a simple metaphor and expand it into an entire song is one the most characteristic and impressive traits he possesses. Wildflower, Comin' Up Crows, and Break in the Storm are just a couple of examples of this style from back in The Great Divide days. He continues to show his narrative talent in his solo career with songs like Wicked Game of Hearts, Via Dolorosa, Jack of Diamonds, Open My Door, and on did7, The Eagle and the Crow.


Mike has absolutely nothing more to prove to be considered one of the most influential and prolific writers in the Texas/Red Dirt scene, yet he continues to put out records that simply amaze me. It still confounds me that his name hasn't spread throughout wider circles in the alt-country world (and that i'm the only one that can be found on The Hype talking about him). Maybe his day will come; and, until then, i'll do my best to spread the good word.

Get Mike's music straight from him:

1 comment:

  1. Indeed Foam is a fantastic 10 track album, one of the best in this awesome genre of music.