When Brandon Clark Band released Stars and Stripes last September, it ended a three year wait by the band's fans for new material. It also presented a more accurate picture of the band and its sound: a blend of country influences and rock delivery. The disc also marked a new chapter for the band, which included the addition of drummer Mark Meeker and signing with CTK management with an eye on touring more extensively.
Since then, Clark has continued his solo and acoustic gigs on week nights, but local appearances by the full band have been less frequent. With an eye on breaking new markets, the group hit the road on weekends and took its show to nine states, reaching from Texas to Minnesota. The band was sure not to forsake Tulsa, however, still picking up local gigs, albeit with less frequency.
Amidst those local shows, BCB also got the opportunity to open a few shows at Cain's Ballroom, including a January 23 show with Reckless Kelly. Sensing an opportunity in the making, Clark called old friend and collaborator Hank Charles to record the evening's show. The results rendered the band's first live CD, Better Off "Live" Dead: A Night at Cain's Ballroom. The title plays off of "Better off Dead", a track from Stars and Stripes, but also plays to what the group's fans already know: BCB has always been about the live experience. As much as Stars and Stripes did to capture the band's identity, you can't replace the energy of a live performance with these guys -- and that's just what this new recording does.
Although another show at Mercury Lounge was recorded, with Clark initially considering releasing both together (which would make for a great portrait of the band, showing both its large venue energy and small club intimacy), another opportunity presented itself, making it the right time to release the January show now.
This Friday night, June 8, BCB returns to the Cain's Ballroom stage to open once again for Reckless Kelly. With an encore performance of sorts presenting itself, there's no better time to release the disc than this weekend. Clark admitted, however, that he didn't want to steal any thunder from Reckless Kelly as the headliner, so the disc is being released digitally on Friday through all the normal outlets with the live show serving as a celebration of sorts.
In turn, Clark shared that the band will likely print hard copies in a limited run and do a series of physical CD release shows later this summer. "We still sell CDs at the live shows, but you can tell the music industry in general is definitely not selling hard copies like it used to. The majority of sales have moved to digital. That's good for us, though, because that's less overhead on our part."
The disc itself captures the band in its comfort zone: on stage in front of a live audience, and delivers exactly what the band is known for. There's more of an edge to each of the songs, whether presenting a little extra snarl on "Pistolero" or the melancholy of title track "Better Off Dead". More than anything else, however, the disc displays just how the band walks the fine line of delivering country infused honky-tonk with a rock attitude and delivery.
"This is definitely a more rock record for us," Clark said. "It's got big drums and loud guitars, just like we like it."
Besides showcasing seven of the tracks from Stars and Stripes and a couple standouts from Tall, like "She's Got No Wings," the disc also delivers a couple surprises for the group's loyal fans.
The second track of the set, "Take a Number" is a new song that shows a decidedly more rock side of the band and is indicative of the swagger and focus that months of concentrated touring has given the band.
Later in the set, the band pulls out a couple of covers that further reveal what the band is all about. Long time fans finally get the group's version of "Mekong," a Refreshments tune that has long been a staple of BCB's live set. Clark then turns things on their ear by delving back into Dustin Pittsley's early catalog and pulling out "The Ocean". Anyone who knows Brandon Clark knows he's not only a great musician, but also one of the biggest supporters of other artists within the local scene. While his taste runs from country to metal, the group manages to put their own spin on the track without taking Pittsley's stamp off of the song.
When asked why he's releasing this set now (aside from the obvious), he said "It's right on time for lake season," sharing that he was told that Tall was the most frequently heard album coming from boats on area lakes the summer it was released. "We're getting it out just as the boats are getting out on the lakes," he laughed, "and, of course, if gives us a little extra gas money this summer."
"Plus," he shared, "It's just a good opportunity to release it at the Cain's, where we recorded it. A lot of our fans are Reckless Kelly fans and a lot of our friends are Reckless Kelly's friends, so it just makes for a good party."
Reckless Kelly continues to tour on its latest disc, Good Luck & True Love, which came out last September and is still garnering attention from fans and radio. Although the group has been around since '96, the latest disc sees it really coming into its own and separating itself from the rest of the Texas music scene with solid songs that embrace the band's country roots and don't sound like so many other acts that all blend together within the scene. Tickets are still available for $19 in advance or $21 at the door for what should be a great show with a pair of bands that are good friends. And, of course, it also serves as an opportunity to celebrate the digital release of Brandon Clark Band's latest disc, Better Off "Live" Dead, which was recorded on the same stage earlier this year.
NewVo is Coming!
If you've been paying attention, you've seen the teaser ads, but it's coming and just around the corner: Urban Tulsa's annual NewVo showcase will be presented at IDL Ballroom on June 22. Normally we do this in April, but instead of getting lost in the spring shuffle we've waited and put together what we believe will be a great showcase of Tulsa's rising talent and new voices (hence, NewVo). We've got a full night of music lined up with The Fiddlebacks, Dirty Creek Bandits, The Bourgeois, Harbinger, Eric Himan and We the Ghost. There's enough in this lineup to keep you hanging out and enjoying the tunes all night long. Mark it down now and plan ahead, because you won't want to miss the party this year -- we can guarantee it.
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