A Fine Return for a Louisville Cowboy

Winding Highways (ear X-tacy)
Mickey Clark

By Kevin Gibson

This new release by well-traveled country veteran and Louisville native Mickey Clark not only does justice to Clark's fine career, but to Americana as an art form. Unpretentious and accessible, Winding Highways takes the straight and narrow when it comes to delivery. Here, Clark gets his songs across gently, and that's what ultimately makes the collection succeed.

OK, it also helps to have guys like Sam Bush, John Prine, Turley Richards and other elite company in your corner. Nevertheless, the tunes are winners on their own.

These mellow songs feature Clark's warm voice and delicate instrumentation, such as Tim Crouch's mandolin and fiddle fills on "In the Blink of an Eye," which tells the story of a belief in fate having cost the narrator that "one in a million" love, while noting "believing don't always make it true."

Some of these tunes, according to the extensive liner notes, have been waiting to surface for quite some time, while a few are recent. One of the newer ones, co-written with Jim Zerface, shows Clark's humorous side "Don't Piss on my Boots and Tell Me It's Raining" features a series of vignettes in which the narrator calls out a phony. In the end, he ends up at the pearly gates, hoping he won't get the same lecture. (The spoken-word verse, yodeling and "Pissers Chorus" are nice touches too.)

"Where the Green River Flows" is a lost-love ballad wrapped in an ode to Kentucky that features a nice minor-chord progression and some nice harmonies by Robin and Linda Williams. "Sarah" adds some elements of rock for a more modern tone that makes for a nice departure during the second half of the album, while "Shanty Boat Bill" tells the story of a young boy befriending a grieving, aging river dweller.

With solid songwriting, production and talent on full display up and down the line, this is one worth adding to your collection. You won't hear it on modern country radio anytime soon, that's for sure. And, obviously, I mean that in a good way.

Find out more at www.mickeyclark.com.