W.C. Clark

From Austin with Soul

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Although he records for Alligator -- Chicago's home of "house-rocking music" -- this long-awaited return from Austin's founding father of the blues might just as well have been waxed during the glory years of Hi Records. As on his last release, guitarist/vocalist Clark meshes R&B with gospel, funk, and blues in a greasy Memphis soul stew that bubbles with passion. The delight Clark exudes in playing this music is evident on every track. His lead guitar playing sparkles, but is mostly reduced to fills and takes a back seat to the jaw-dropping singing that reaches out and grabs the listener. Like Al Green, with whom he shares a similar vocal approach, Clark testifies with every phrase. Not religious-based, this is still music grounded in the church no matter how funky and bluesy it is. When Clark states he's a "Real Live Livin' Hurtin' Man," he might as well be preaching from the pulpit and saving souls. Divided halfway between covers and originals, Clark's versions of Clarence Carter's "Snatching It Back," Allen Toussaint by way of Lee Dorsey's "Get out of My Life Woman," O.V. Wright's "I've Been Searching," and even Oliver Sain's warhorse "Don't Mess up a Good Thing" (with Marcia Ball providing the female duet part) find new life in this setting. He even rescues "How Long Is a Heartache Supposed to Last?" from obscure soulman Jimmy Lewis and makes it sound like the lost classic it is. Longtime associate Mark Kazanoff's tenor sax and production keep the album focused while playing to Clark's strengths: his searing voice and supple guitar work. When he does let loose on six-string during "I'm Gonna Disappear," it's obvious he's got the chops to do more. But it's that restraint that makes this such a satisfying comeback. Sadly, as of its release in 2002, this was the only W.C. Clark album available, a frustrating situation since anyone who experiences From Austin With Soul is going to want to hear more from this magnificent and classy soul/bluesman.

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