“Why don’t we form a band?” said the husband.
“Why don’t you empty the dishwasher?” said the wife.
For what began as something of a side project in 2011 for husband and wife Michael Weston King & Lou Dalgleish, My Darling Clementine is now very much centre stage with 3 albums, over 400 shows across Europe and N. America, some ingenious musical collaborations, accolades and awards, and an ever growing fan base with a genuine love of their music.
Following on from their 2015 story and song collaboration with crime writer Mark Billingham, The Other Half, which was an album, an audiobook and a live show, My Darling Clementine now release their new studio album; Still Testifying.
Still Testifying is a further step away from the “countrypolitan” style of their much-lauded debut How Do You Plead? which launched the band in 2011. (An album that was hailed by many as simply “The Best British Country Record Ever”)
The 2013 follow up The Reconciliation? featuring Richard Hawley’s team, as well as that iconic Texan Kinky Friedman, hinted at a more soulful direction. Still Testifying shows that My Darling Clementine have seamlessly arrived at that destination.
The pedal steel has been joined by horns, the twang has given way to wah-wah & groove guitar, and the fiddle replaced by strings. This is more Delaney & Bonnie than George & Tammy, revealing a further move away from Classic Country as they embrace Gospel and Country Soul, channeling the likes of Dan Penn, Micky Newbury, Goffin & King and Bacharach & David.
Reuniting with How Do You Plead? producer Neil Brockbank (Nick Lowe, Dan Penn, Tift Merritt, Jim Lauderdale), this new album features an array of the finest UK musicians who flawlessly echo a love and understanding of Stax, Fame, Hi, and mid 60’s era Atlantic Records. (Players who, between them, have worked with Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Ben E. King, Van Morrison, Dr John, & Doug Sahm.)
Still Testifying may have been recorded in South London over the summer of 2016, but the warm southern winds of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and New Orleans, Louisiana were clearly blowing along Tooting High Street, straight into the Gold Top Studio. And yet, the English north wind doth also blow, down from the Lancastrian and Yorkshire moors. Listeners may even feel the spirit of the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band echoing through some of these new songs too.
But of course, Dalgleish and King did not completely overlook their Country Music leanings. New songs Since I Fell For You (where the sin of pride is redeemed by the love of good man or woman) and Friday Night, Tulip Hotel (the tale of a doomed, on-going, secret liaison that, naturally, ends in tears) are fine examples of their continued, skilful, classic country songwriting.
As with all things Clementine, there is a story to tell, and a well crafted lyric to be honed. One of the most talked about songs on The Reconciliation? was No Matter What Tammy Said (I Won’t Stand By Him). This being Ms. Dalgleish's rebuff to Ms. Wynette as she contradicted the queen of heartache by urging women everywhere NOT to stand by their man. On Still Testifying, Lou
colludes with another country icon by assuming the position of Dolly Parton's protagonist "Jolene" (Jolene’s Story) and we get to hear that she did, indeed, take Dolly's man.
Two Lane Texaco portrays the demise of small town America, courtesy of the oil industry (though it could be anywhere). And, in recounting the halcyon days of early broadcasting — the Shreveport radio tower and such iconic figures as Alan Freed and Wolfman Jack, the song also honours the sad end of a musical golden age.
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The band’s sound and musical landscape may have changed a little, but the core of My Darling Clementine remains the same: Two adults, a man and a woman, still married, still singing to each other, still singing about each other, still singing for (or against) each other ..……. And still testifying.