Strangely unpredictable

Strangely Delicious Stew (Wolfden Tapeless)
Carl Clark

By Jim Conway

It's kind of hard to put your finger on what's going on with Carl Clark: there are touches of acoustic folk, streaks of neo-jazz, some suggestion of traditional country, or maybe a pinch of modern rock to boot. A Strangely Delicious Stew it is nonetheless.

Fresh from his contribution to Scott Benningfield's The Acoustic Lighthouse Experiment, Clark delivers twelve slices of eclectic home-studio craft as diverse and as unpredictable as the selections on a jukebox.

Now I have to admit, I'm a sucker for Dobro playing, which is what is so cool about "Your Alibis." As the dobro twangs, Clark sings of the realization that the excuses of the singer's lover are starting to wear a little thin and, "it's all gonna catch up with (her), somehow." In fact, Clark seems fairly comfortable in the country music camp, especially with the intro to the Chet Adkins/Duane Eddy-influenced instrumental, "Space Chicken." Eventually, the guitar picking gives away to a synth and tone-pedal interlude before traveling back to the main theme and provides the listener with a nice musical tour in a four-minute time frame.

Continuing on the musical journey, Clark samples the waters of the 1930s with "To Virginia," which reeks of Depression-era charm and provides the listener with enough dulcimer and mandolin mistakes (I think) that the artist appears seemingly at ease with the proceedings, and, it is hoped, his craft.

From the Depression, we continue the sojourn to the later part of the 20th century, with "Encircled" and a Dire Straits-influenced (i.e., Knoffler-like lead guitar licks.) The robot-like spoken part and computer noise provide contrast to the song as a whole, with Clark providing his philosophy regarding relationships: Some need it fancy, I need it plain.

But the highlight of Strangely Delicious Stew is the first cut, an instrumental called "Neurotransmission," which works surprisingly well as a new age-style instrumental. The surreal quality and the different textures of the arrangement make it fun for the listener to follow along. And even with Clark's tendency to dabble in different musical styles, it makes the listener sit up with anticipation as to what is coming next. Strangely unpredictable is this stew.