To those unfamiliar with Terry Clarke, his music conjures up visions of an Irish Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young. This isn't to suggest that his music is derivative -- it isn't. Only that his voice and the basic arrangements recall Springsteen and Young chasing ghosts with acoustic guitars. Originally released in 1991, The Shelly River received limited circulation and then dropped out of sight until Catfish decided to reissue it in 2001. A quick glance at the 14 selections, including "Irish Rockabilly Blues" and "The Edge of Shamrock City," reveals a music rooted in Clarke's native land and memories. "This Town's Too Small" paints a portrait of the quietly desperate, remaining in a place that holds nothing for them, while the curiously named "American Lipstick" offers a story of an Irish friend's experience in the U.S. Indeed, Clarke enjoys telling stories and avoids the usual singer/songwriter pitfalls by making his material universal to all human experience. Other nice tracks include the title track and a lovely "Sligo Honeymoon 1946," both highlighted by relaxed acoustic guitars and mandolins. The integrated sound, along with Clarke's warm and rough vocals, make placing The Shelly River in the CD player an easy and familiar task. This disc will be appreciated by anyone who enjoys fine acoustic music presented with sincerity.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.