Very few British country acts bear comparison with the best of their American counterparts, but My Darling Clementine are an outstanding exception. They give traditional country a modern twist, combining the melodies and subject matter of Nashville greats such as George Jones with stunning original songs. The UK’s leading specialist country magazine, Country Music People, hailed their first album How Do You Plead? as ‘the best British country record ever’ and has acclaimed their second, the recently released The Reconciliation? as ‘a phenomenal piece of work’. There’s also been high praise from numerous other publications, including Uncut, the Guardian and the New York Daily News – which enthusiastically informed its readers that one of the best American country records of late had just been made in Britain.
A duo comprising husband and wife team Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish (both excellent singers), My Darling Clementine have superb musicians in their five-piece tour band, including bassist Al Gare (who also plays with Imelda May) and lead guitarist Martin Belmont (a member of Graham Parker and the Rumour, who contributed some scorching solos).
The set’s consistently strong material ranged from the driving, up tempo honkytonk sound of Leave The Good Book On The Shelf to the haunting ballad Not A Song For Christmas. The songs sometimes reference directly the traditional country canon My Darling Clementine are so clearly steeped in: The Gospel According To George salutes George Jones, while No Matter What Tammy Said has Lou Dalgleish declaring that an abused wife shouldn’t have to stand by her man. Other highlights included the new single, No Heart In This Heartache, where Weston King and Dalgleish duetted to great effect. One of the encores (after a request from the audience for ‘a Declan MacManus song’) was an unaccompanied rendition by Dalgleish of Elvis Costello’s Indoor Fireworks; she’s sung with Elvis in the past and said she’d never miss an opportunity to sing one of his songs.
The pair’s between songs banter with the audience and each other added to the entertainment. Dalgleish’s pleas that someone reward her efforts with a vodka and tonic were eventually answered, and when an elderly gentleman in the front row looked like he might have nodded off she left the stage and hauled him to his feet for a quick dance.
The blizzard of gigs linked to the Guitar Festival perhaps explains why this show was somewhat under-publicised, and it’s a pity that while the audience was certainly appreciative there wasn’t a full house. But in the next few months there are other opportunities (which shouldn’t be missed!) to catch My Darling Clementine on Merseyside, when they play the Atkinson, Southport (14 December) and the Rodewald Suite, Liverpool Philharmonic (6 February).
The My Darling Clementine website: http://mydarlingclementinemusic.co.uk/
Along with much else, YouTube has the video for their latest single, No Heart In This Heartache: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDp0rghi1lo