Brandon Clark has been a fixture on the local music scene for nearly a decade now. After starting out playing in cover bands like Supermodel and trying his hand as guitarist in a touring act, Clark has been a steady presence since releasing Panhandle Gatherings with The Red Lights in 2004.
After The Red Lights dissolved, Clark paired up with old friends Darren Lightfoot (bass), Dave Duval (guitar) and Heath Jacobson (drums) and formed Brandon Clark and the Drinking Buddies, which eventually became the Brandon Clark Band (BCB), more by fan reference than choice.
Subsequent CD releases for Songs From the Beer Joint and Tall continued to build the band's catalogue of songs as the band built a loyal following both locally and regionally. At the same time, Clark filled out his weekly calendar with solo acoustic gigs when not playing with the band. That schedule led to Clark winning the ABoT Music award for Artist of the Year in both 2010 and 2011 as he has played roughly 300 shows a year for the past three years running and is on par to do it again this year.
The band also won in the Best Red Dirt category each of the past three years, even though it doesn't consider itself a Red Dirt Band. Granted, the group's blend of rock, country and blues fits well within the Red Dirt sound, but as a band of pure Oklahomans the group feels like it disqualifies them from the genre by not coming from the Stillwater scene.
What do they consider themselves then? Some people call it rock, some country, some honky-tonk -- and while there are elements of each, more often than not, you'll hear Clark or any of his band mates describe their music as primarily "beer drinkin' music."
Since the release of Tall in 2008, Brandon Clark Band has continued to evolve. Guitarist Dave Duval has departed and is working with his own band, Soulshine, which led to the entry of guitarist Brandon Autry. Meanwhile, drummer Heath Jacobson moved to the Dallas area and Josh Reynolds has taken on the.
If all of this seems like a quick overview of someone you already know, there's a reason for that. Although Clark has a loyal following, a good portion of Tulsa still doesn't have an accurate picture of what he or his band is really all about. Sometimes stereotyped as a cover band, that's far from an accurate description. Yes, BCB fills things out with a selection of covers and Clark will often pepper his acoustic gigs with a variety of other artists' songs, but with a catalogue of nearly 50 original tunes, Clark and his band can fill an evening with their own material.
Even the past releases, as solid as they were, haven't been a good representation of what the Brandon Clark Band is really all about. Those misunderstandings and misrepresentations are all close to being cleared up when the group releases its latest CD, Stars and Stripes, this Friday night with a release party at Mercury Lounge.
Rock, country and honky-tonk all stand side by side and co-exist without clashing. Clark's lyrics are genuine and unflinching, balancing seriousness with a sense of humor and everyone's influences are integrated into the whole.
Don't be mistaken and think this is solely Clark's baby, however. Yes, his name is front and center, as is his voice, but this is truly a band project, as witnessed by the inclusion of two of Darren Lightfoot's songs, "Sunflower" and "Devil's Got a Daughter"; and the input of Brandon Autry, who has brought a more melodic and focused approach to the guitar parts and solos.
With the release of Stars and Stripes this weekend, The Brandon Clark Band is opening a new chapter. The group recently signed an agreement with CTK Entertainment, which is owned and run by Mike Krug (of Back Porch Mary) and his wife, to start booking the band out of town and helping it to break into the Texas market.
Clark was also approached over the summer by Banshee Music Group to record a song to be played before OU football games. The band took the track, "Are You Really Ready," into the studio in July and put its own spin on the song, which should be released within the next few weeks.
Although "Are You Really Ready" does not appear on the band's new CD, it is the song that gave the band a new spark.
Upon the departure of Jacobson over the summer, Clark and his band mates considered regrouping under another name with a new lineup, but reconsidered once the opportunity to work with Banshee Music Group came up. Once released, the song is planned for placement to be played in the football stadium before games and possibly be included in TV broadcasts, exposing the band to a whole new audience.
Of course, that leaves potential for the band to break big in the Norman and Oklahoma City markets. When paired with the booking arrangement with CTK, the next year has the potential to see the band blow up outside of Tulsa.
Without a solid product, though, the band would be dead in the water and the new disc, Stars and Stripes, proves to be the band's most solid album to date. The disc opens with the southern tinged rocker "Change Your Mind," a no brainer for a lead single, which Clark performed at the ABoT Music Awards in July.
Tracks like "Older" (which Clark once joked with me that he was going to sell to the Zac Brown Band), "Like My Chance" and "Not All That Band" have a distinctly country tone to them. Meanwhile, the final track to be recorded, "Devil's Got a Daughter," is a fiery rocker in the vein of the Black Crowes and "Pistolero" channels the kind of southwestern rock vibe that Roger Clyne has mastered. Somehow, all of the piece fit together without clashing and provide a great picture of what the band is all about.
Even the album title is a reflection of the band's personality. Although Stars and Stripes could be mistaken for a patriotic title, the album cover explains it perfectly, depicting a night drive under the stars and following the stripes on the highway. It's an accurate image for a band that already travels a lot, but is ready to expand its reach and spend even more time on the road.
If you've ever discounted Brandon Clark Band as just a cover act or a country band, this weekend is your best opportunity to set all your presuppositions to rest. The band releases its new CD with a release party at Mercury Lounge this Friday night, Sept. 30. Cover is only $5 and Philip Zoellner Band will open at 10pm before Brandon Clark Band rolls out its new disc and displays its true self with a blend of country, rock and honky-tonk that they may call beer drinkin' music, but most will call purely Oklahoma.
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