All songs by William Clarke, Eyeball Music, BMI, except as noted.
Produced by William Clarke
Recorded at Pacifica Studios, Culver City, CA
Engineered by Glenn Nishida
Mixed by William Clarke, assisted by Glenn Nishida
Cover photo by Greg Allen
Cover design by Matt Minde
William Clarke, Harmonica and Vocals
Alex Schultz, Guitar on Lollipop Mama, Lonesome Bedroom Blues, Greasy Gravy, Cash Money, and Must Be Jelly and Electric Bass on Cash Money
Zach Zunis, Guitar on Gambling For My Bread, Trying So Hard, Sweet Angel's Gone and Drinking By Myself
Rick Holmstrom, Guitar on Sweet Angel's Gone
John Marx, Guitar on Looking To The Future and Blowin' Like Hell
William Clarke, Guitar on Looking To The Future
Fred Kaplan, Piano on Lollipop Mama, Gambling For My Bread, Greasy Gravy, Trying So Hard, Sweet Angel's Gone, Looking To The Future, and Drinking By Myself
Steve F'dor, Piano on Must Be Jelly and Lonesome Bedroom Blues
Willie Brinlee, Acoustic Bass
John Young, Electric Bass on Sweet Angel's Gone
Eddie Clark, Drums
Jon Viau Baritone and Tenor Sax on Gambling For My Bread, Trying So Hard, and Sweet Angel's Gone
John Marotti, Trombone and Trumpet on Gambling For My Bread, Trying So Hard and Sweet Angel's Gone
Dedicated to Jeanette
Special thanks to: Dick Shurman, George Smith, Shakey Jake Harris, Charlie Musselwhite, Bob Rivera, Lamar's Records, Tom Mazzolini, Gina & Willie, Blain Spencer, Roy & Elizabeth Clarke, Fred Kaplan, Joe Lodovici, Dan Jacobson and all of my close friends on the West Coast blues scene.
AMONG FANS OF GREASE-DRIPPING, big-toned, swinging Chicago-style blues harp, William Clarke has been building a serious track record for almost two decades. A series of albums on small American and European labels has established this Los Angeles native's place in the vanguard of the new generation of West Coast harp players. Mostly Californians, these musicians have created a style firmly under the sway of the Chicago greats like Little Walter, Junior Wells, James Cotton and both Sonny Boy Williamsons. Equally influential are two older, transplanted Chicagoans who have wielded incalculable influence since relocating to California: the late George "Harmonica" Smith in L.A. and Charlie Musselwhite in the Bay Area.
The younger West Coast harp players have usually employed a heavily amplified instrumental attack and a spare, lowdown vocal approach. They've filled out their bands with swinging, versatile guitarists, drums, perhaps acoustic piano and often acoustic bass, to craft a style which pays tribute to the '50s Windy City sounds without simply recreating them.
All of William Clarke's previous shoestring-budget recordings (and hundreds of shows, first in California and now across the country and overseas) have proven him to be an accomplished, authoritative bluesman with a heartfelt, unadulterated approach. He and his bands have taken material from Johnny Young and Tampa Red to Buddy Guy, tempered the back alley mood with an infectious, thoroughly gutbucket infusion of swing, and produced records of total commitment and impeccable taste. Besides his own records, Clarke has also done sterling studio work for Smokey Wilson, Shakey Jake, Long Gone Miles and other local blues stalwarts, and produced strong recordings by other L.A. artists including his mentor, George Smith.
BLOWIN’ LIKE HELL is a major step forward which loses none of the virtues or 110% blues content of Clarke’s previous records. It’s clearly his most fully realized, rich and personal album. Nine tunes were written by Clarke. All eleven come straight to the point, with a diverse array of powerhouse grooves. The down and dirty slow blues of Drinkin’ By Myself (ending with an impassioned George Smith evocation) and Lonesome Bedroom Blues set off raunchy shuffles like Sweet Angel’s Gone and Looking To The Future, the last offering a taste of Clarke’s guitar work. He and the band swing and jump their way through Roy Brown’s Lollipop Mama (highlighted by Clarke’s breathtaking technique), the cool instrumental Greasy Gravy and the lascivious, jazzy romp Must Be Jelly. Kicking funk is added to the blend via Gambling For My Bread, the sizzling instrumental Cash Money and Trying So Hard, with its tasty reed section. The title track is boogie that lives up to its name, tossing in just enough mischief to keep things loose. The well-conceived tunes and no-nonsense production incorporate a wide range of strengths and savvy. The sidemen lend yeoman support: tasty guitar and piano solos, judicious but booting horn parts, in-the-pocket rhythm section work and yet another affirmation of the virtues of blues on standup bass.
William Clarke has taken blues traditions crystallized in Chicago some four decades ago and affirmed by a later breed of Californians and used them as the basis of his own style. It’s a style of directness, vitality, involvement, inventiveness, grit, command and broad musical sensibility, from grinding dance floor beats to jazz riffs and licks. It’s blues, and it bodes well for the future of the classic sounds Clarke has venerated absorbed and embellished. William Clarke is ready for the spotlight- and your stereo!
Dick Shurman is an independent record producer and blues journalist