Press/Reviews

JR Clark and the All Star Blues Mob

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What a pleasant acquaintance with JR Clark And The All Star Blues Mob is this "When It All Comes Down" has become! The quartet consists alongside singer / guitarist JR Clark from some experienced musical rats. What do you think of Johnny B. Gayden still played bass nij Albert Collins And The Ice Breakers? or how about a drummer Jerry "Bam Bam" Porter, who many years toured with Buddy Guy, Magic Slim and The James Cotton Band? If that is not enough, you also have the fantastic keyboard player Willie Styles! Well, these guys together form an excellent Blues band who have admired songs brought excellent twelve on this release. There is something for everyone to enjoy on this album. Eight covers, three songs written by Clark and a number of the band that vary in style but the plate captivates from beginning to end.

The title track was written by Jennings / Sample but will sound familiar by BB King. It is a very worthy aftrapper service. The following, "Inner City" is a fantastic pounding rocking blues blemish excellent guitar work of Clark, also writer who works extremely contagious in the lower limbs. We blink away a tear of emotion as then Michael Burks' "Can You Feel It" blares through the speakers. By us so lamented artist gets a sublime tribute given here with an almost perfect version of his classic.

Also known by Albert King 'Cross Cut Saw "can count here at the home on more than nodding approvingly. Totally excited Clark's own straightforward Blue Number "A Little Bit Older". The Chicago Blues ballad arouses deep respect for us. The searing solo piano makes the song also one of our favorites. JR shows what further anyway again what a brilliant songwriter he is on the rocking "Clean Getaway"! Of why still so many covers on this album we have to guess but if that results in a fine job here as it can make us really care.

Clark's some more narrative style of singing knows us indeed tempt and fits perfectly with the songs that they bring. The men are indeed experienced enough songs to play after not indiscriminately but there respectfully to indicate its own toetsje. The least successful version, and even then, we perceive at Johnny Guitar Watson's "I Want To Ta Ta You Baby" but they regroup themselves entirely with "Can I Change My Mind", once a hit for Tyrone Davis. In any case, JR Clark and his band managed to convince me all of their abilities. On the next release we want to hear some more songs zelfgepende because here they stand upright effortlessly between the famous Blue Classics and that says enough already! Let's now look for previously released albums of this exciting band.

Luc Meert

South Bend Tribune

It’s fair to say the blues just kind of fell into JR Clark’s lap.

“OK, maybe a little,” the Kalamazoo bluesman admits, recalling the first time the blues bug bit him square in his guitar-playing soul.

“Seeing Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials open for George Thorogood at the Kalamazoo Fair,” Clark says. “I was honing my skills with rock ’n’ roll, and Lil’ Ed walks out and I was like, ‘Holy crap, who is this guy?’ He really inspired me. I remember thinking, I’ll never be able to get this good, but I feel like I’ve come along a bit.”

Yes, JR Clark’s blues have come along quite a bit.

Anybody who witnessed the 47-year-old guitar slinger’s wicked set that boogied tribute to Freddie King and John Lee Hooker at last year’s Blues and Ribs Fest at Coveleski Stadium can attest to Clark’s authentic blues spirit.

That Lil’ Ed Williams’ move Clark busted during one extended song walking through the crowd blistering the air with a ferocious guitar solo? Yeah, Clark is applying the lessons he picked up from the masters. Don’t be surprised if he takes his guitar to the people when he hits the stage today for a Meet Me on the Island show at downtown South Bend’s Century Center.

“That’s something a lot of the blues guys do,” he says. “Lil’ Ed inspired me to do that. … That’s not something I do every time, but if I feel the crowd’s into that, I’ll get out off the stage and mingle with the crowd.”

Born in Texas to a musician father who played “old-school” country music and a mother who loved Elvis Presley, Clark moved with his mom to the small Michigan town of Covert at a young age. There, he found a racially diverse town that listened to rock ’n’ roll, soul and R&B.

“I like all music, but I never went out and bought albums,” Clark says. “I was into Chuck Berry, Little Richard, most of the artists that I heard growing up, they’re influences.”

But it wasn’t until he got married and moved back to Texas to be closer with his father that he got his first guitar — a Gibson bought for him by his dad.

“I just made an oath with myself that I’m going to learn to play it,” Clark says.

By the time he returned to Michigan, this time Kalamazoo, Clark had familiarized himself with his guitar well enough to start hammering out the blues he absorbed from such musicians as Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Luther Allison, Magic Slim, Larry McCray and fellow Michigander Michael Burks, who Clark befriended and covered musically on record.

And he hung out at local jam sessions, where he met musicians that the average blues fan paid to see.

“I parted ways with one of my keyboard players, and my drummer at the time had seen Willie come to a jam session in Kalamazoo,” Clark says of keyboardist Willie Styles, who had toured with blues and Motown guitarist Robert Ward. “I just stopped in to hang out one night and Willie popped in, and now we’ve been together for a few years.”

The rhythm section of bassist Johnny B. Gayden and drummer Jerry “Bam Bam” Porter were already acclaimed backup musicians in their own right. Gayden, an Alligator Records recording artist, had toured extensively with blues legend Albert Collins and also is a member of South Bend’s Whistle Pigs. Porter held down the beat for Buddy Guy for several years, as well as Magic Slim and the Tear Drops, and the drummer continues to tour with The James Cotton Band when he isn’t working with Clark.

“Jerry Porter,” Clark says, “I met him in Indiana at a jam session. I needed a drummer for a New Year’s show, and I called Kenny Kinsey (bassist with The Kinsey Report) and got Jerry’s number, thinking this guy’s got to be booked.”

Porter, to Clark’s surprise, was open. “I was kind of honored that he would even consider playing with me.”

Just this month, JR Clark and the All Star Blues Mob released “When It All Comes Down.” Clark’s fifth recorded offering is a heady, hard-driving exploration of Chicago blues that includes Clark originals — “Inner City,” “A Little Bit Older” and “Clean Getaway” — covers of Michael Burks’ “Can You Feel It” and Robert Ward’s “Peace of Mind,” and a surprisingly fresh, worldly percussive version of the old Donny Hathaway burner “The Ghetto” that conjures more of a War “Low Rider” street detour away from the blues.

Clark is quick to credit his band for putting the R and the B into his brand of soul.

“I play with guys that I feel so at home with,” he says. “They’re loving what they do, they’re not just playing the blues.

“Of course,” Clark adds, “they want to get paid, too, but that love of the music is there.”

There is one bluesman that Clark channels with his guitar on the new record, although being spoken in the same breath as B.B. King is a humbling prospect.

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” Clark says. “I want somebody to say he’s the real deal. I want my peers to say that.

“That,” he says, “means more to me than anything, even more than, ‘Come along and play a gig and we’ll go into the studio.’”

Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association Web Page

South Bend Tribune

Spark catches fire for high-energy band

November 09, 2007|ANDREW S. HUGHES Tribune Staff Writer

 Clark has been "asked a million times" why his blues band doesn't have a harmonica player in it. "I don't think there would be room for that," he says by cell phone from a gas station in Benton Harbor. He has no need for one, and in fact, produces a refreshing, varied take on the blues without one. With "Sweet" Ray Burke on Hammond B-3 organ, "Boogie Woogie" Bob Peters on piano and Tim King on saxophone, the JR Clark Band has both a big sound and a big presence on stage. Led by Clark on guitar, Timson Taliaferro on drums and Denny Love on bass round out the six-piece band. "It's a little tough sometimes," Clark says of traveling with such a large band -- and an instrument as heavy as a B-3 organ. "It's nice to play places that have roadies, sometimes, but you've got to do what you've got to do. We just deal with it." Based on the band's two albums, "I Shoulda Listened to My Conscience" and "Getaway," Clark and his band "deal with it" quite well musically. Clark specializes in slide guitar, and he unleashes his technique with a roar on "Heartbreaker," "Goin' to Chicago" and "Last Call Boogie." Clark's cover of Luther Allison's "You Don't Know" features a fat tone from his guitar laid over a boogie-woogie rhythm, and the blues-soul seduction song "Let's Go Out Tonight (Revisited)" has a jazz underpinning to its sax solo. "Trouble" even opens with an Allman Brothers-tinged Southern rock riff that reaches fruition on Clark's guitar solo, while the melancholy "Get What She Needs" spotlights Clark's single note playing above a solid base from the organ. Clark engages in social commentary with his lyrics on the groovin' jazz-based "Bring Our Children Home" and the grungy, fuzz-toned "Promised Land." Clark can sing, too: His voice imbues the cheatin' song "Lady of the Night" with pain and "I Shoulda Listened to My Conscience" with regret. "I'm not a big conversationalist, but I do observe," Clark says of writing lyrics. "I guess that's the way a lot of artists do (it). You can get things out with your art." The 40-year-old guitarist says he isn't a "technical player" and plays strictly by ear. "I just want to get across something -- the energy, the stage presence, the feel of the music," he says. "In fact, I don't even know what I'm playing. I have to ask the bass player, 'What key is this in? What chord is this?' But we make it work." Clark's two albums give no reason to doubt his description of the band's live show as "high-energy" as he and his band offer up a selection of originals and covers of songs by Michael Burkes, Luther Allison, Muddy Waters and, of course, his mentor, Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials. "It's just my influences coming out," he says. "I never have a set list, and the guys are on me for that, but I do so much better just whipping them out and going by instinct about what the audience will want. ... There will be some strings broken, I'm sure. There usually is."

Lansing State Journal

J.R. Clark Band

It's a fair bet that during his set, J.R. Clark is gonna walk on tables, do a few back bends while he's playing his guitar and head out into the crowd.

He's a natural showman.

"I just connect with the people. You get out there close to the people and it does something. When I'm feeling good and the energy is there, I go out. It just comes over me," he said.

Clark - a protege of guitarist "Lil'" Ed Williams from Chicago - started his band about 20 years ago. He said Williams taught him showmanship, but he already had the energy. His six-member band features a Hammond B-3 organ and a piano, so it has a juke joint-type of vibe.

Having you come to the show and hearing sad blues isn't a part of Clark's plan. His brand of rockin' blues doesn't include anything about worrying over your woman leaving you or the house burning down.

"When someone goes to see a blues show, I want them to realize blues is pretty high-energy stuff. You can dance to it and it's not always about sad things," Clark said.

Just like Frog, Clark doesn't see the blues scene diminishing any time soon. Sure, it takes a step back, but it always rebounds.

"The live music scene is where it's at. Your DJs are only gonna go so far," he said.

"Music has to come from somewhere."