‘Country music’ is a label that comes saddled with a lot of prejudice and is one that turns a lot of people off – more often than not conjuring up images of tacky rhinestone costumes and the plastic smiles of performers associated with the more commercial end of the entertainment industry. It was for this reason that the first copies of Elvis Costello’s fifth album ‘Almost Blue’ – a set of country covers – came with a warning sticker that read: “Warning! This album contains Country & Western Music & may produce radical reaction in narrow minded people." Costello’s record was a challenge to his audience and helped open my ears to a slew of country and country-rock artists. These days I defy anyone not to be haunted by Hank William’s ‘I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry or moved by almost any one of Johnny Cash’s late period American Recordings made with Rick Rubin. Great storytelling and an absence of pretension are often at the heart of the best country songs.
Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish, who together make up My Darling Clementine, understand the core attributes of classic country implicitly and their songs slow burn with a raw intensity that brings to mind the heartbreaking duets of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.
The duo released their first album How Do You Plead? in 2011 to much critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic: Country Music People calling it; “The greatest British country record ever made” while American Songwriter stated that “this is as authentic as anything out of Nashville or Texas…A batch of superb C&W corkers.”
Since then, they have released a series of albums with name producers, including Neil Brockbank, known for his work with Nick Lowe and Colin Elliot who has twiddled the knobs for the likes of Richard Hawley and Duane Eddy. Musicians they have collaborated with on these projects include Kinky Friedman, Graham Parker, Martin Belmont, Geraint Watkins and the Brodsky Quartet.
2013’s The Reconciliation also hit the critical bullseye with the New York Daily News making it album of the week on release, while in 2015 the duo worked with writer Mark Billingham on The Other Half (A Story Of Love, Loss And Murder Told In Words And Songs) tapping into a noirish vein. Still Testifying, which hit the shelves in 2017, stretched out into new musical territory with more than a hint of gospel and southern soul much to the delight of MOJO which described the album as a musical triumph’ and more akin to Bonnie and Delaney than George and Tammy.
Their most recent (and perhaps finest) work brings us full circle, for Country Darkness sees My Darling Clementine reinterpreting the country and country soul songs of one Elvis Costello. The recordings also feature long term Elvis right-hand man. piano maestro, Steve Nieve. Originally released by Fretstore Records as a series of limited E.P.s, they are now available on a highly recommended CD.
Alongside their outstanding studio work, My Darling Clementine, have built up a loyal audience of both sides of the pond and have appeared both at the Americana Music Association in Nashville and Austin’s prestigious SXSW.
Leave any musical prejudices at the door and be prepared for indoor fireworks when you come to hear My Darling Clementine play the WHC.