Listen Up: Wednesday, November 30, 2005
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Mike McClure Band

Camelot Falling (Smith Entertainment Records)

By Jimmy Fowler

Ever since singer-songwriter-producer Mike McClure left his post as frontman for revered country-rock sophisticos The Great Divide a few years ago, his career has been as much about capturing and archiving the so-called Red Dirt scene as contributing to it. Red Dirt artists, also referred to as Texa-homans, are generally Oklahoma natives who’ve used the Texas music scene’s broader national scope to peddle their Americana virtuosity. For artists like Stony LaRue and The Burtschi Brothers, as for McClure, their tunes are less about hillbilly authenticity than the ability to hop around and between styles and tempos from rock ’n’ rye rootsiness to the kind of post-breakup emotional exhibitionism that bartenders are paid so handsomely to endure. But when the groove gets too comfortably homogeneous, listeners are forced to wonder: Didn’t the Flying Burrito Brothers perfect this sound 35 years ago?

McClure’s latest solo disc, Camelot Falling sputters agreeably but frustratingly in the middle of that country-rock road, albeit with the performer’s grinding Lone Star grit always tipping things away from So-Cal ponderousness. Produced by McClure with Keith Sykes, the disc carries too many songs that shouldn’t have been recorded, beginning with an unnecessary cover of Van Morrison’s already gratuitous “Into the Mystic.” And one of the originals might as well have been a cover: “Eden Burning/Camelot Falling” sounds like an archetypal Heartbreakers work-out reserved for the B-side of Tom Petty’s new c.d. single.

The better tunes are, unsurprisingly, ones McClure himself wrote: “Modelo” is a playful ode to his Mexican-made boots; “Sometimes It’s Hard To Tell” highlights McClure’s casually compelling fretwork and gnawing lyrical doubt: “Take a look in that well you call your soul / Are you living in heaven or in hell? / Some times it seems like you’ve been living by the Word / But sometimes it’s hard to tell.” Camelot Falling would be a heavenly romp if it were as similarly ambivalent.


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