by Brad Roberts
Charlie Clark has become such a good friend over the past few months that it's hard for me to remember exactly when or where I first met him. Or even to remember when I didn't know him. I believe it was when I was swamped at the end of last year trying to put together my January Feed Your Head show and asked Rebecca Balin to help me out and book the evening.
She brought in Charlie Clark (below) for my headliner and he performed a great set with an accompanist on guitar and harmonium that January night, after which we had a nice chat and I was struck by his passion and commitment to the local music scene. As a transplant from his native Scotland, he was surprisingly up on many of the primary musicians around the neighborhood, and his set had shown me just how serious he is about his own art. He also attracted a large local following that night which filled Lot 1.
He gave me the CD and LP of his album, Feel Something, that night and, of course, I was impressed. It's expertly produced and has a five song program that is varied and beautifully evocative. Moody and intelligent, highlighted by Charlie's sweet and accurate vocals, the title tune is especially dynamic. He enlisted the help of Brandi Emma to sing and thereby discovered a perfect counterpoint to his own voice. Their vocal coordination is perfectly attuned to each other and the effect is both solid and exhilarating.
In February, came the first appearance of Broken Arrow, which debuted at Hotel Café (at right). Here Charlie had decided there was enough of an entity with Brandi Emma to support the formation of a band. And, indeed quite a band was born. Performing most of the songs on the Feel Something album, they had the sound of a band that was already fully developed, taking material originally performed solo and fleshing it out with full band embellishments. It was a highly polished and very memorable show.
By March, Charlie was booking every Tuesday night at Harvard & Stone featuring his ever-expanding contact with local bands to help fill the bills, and an occasional turn by Broken Arrow. I attended his St. Patrick's Day event of March 17th to see another (one time only...probably) project he had up his sleeve: The Saint Paddy's All Star Jam Band (at left) which featured Charlie, Kaitlin Wolfberg, Ryan Fuller and others in a raucous, celebratory program of Irish (and Scottish) folk tunes. Once again, I was stunned.
Charlie Clark came back for a return engagement at my April Feed Your Head show headlining The Breakups at Lot 1, this time bringing another Scotsman, Roddy Hart, who was visiting L.A., to play a set and as accompaniment for a couple of songs for his own program. He was already working on new material and added them to his regular play list, though they hardly sounded like works in progress.
On Wednesday, May 14, it was was over 100 and as hot as hell out, so I thought I'd mosey on over to the dark, cool, inviting atmosphere of the Hotel Café and check out the first night of the Broken Arrow residency, set for every other Wednesday through June 11th. Now with a new drummer and a new guitarist, the band sounded tighter than ever, but the astonishing thing was that they were playing mostly new material.
Still with a slight country twang, but definitely still indie rock, the songs included new titles like "Danger Signals", "Tell It To Your Friends", "Burn This Place" and "Shape of You" that show a growing assurance and confidence. They sound like they're ready to move up to the next level. What a treat that they live in our town. And Brandi Emma really cut loose at times and let her beautiful voice soar. The harmonium was gone but she still joined in on guitar on a few songs. The audience was rapturous and I think the band could feel it.
Broken Arrow will be playing again on May 28 with the great Miranda Lee Richards and Victoria Williams on that bill, then on June 11 they bring Ben Lee with them, and I'm really looking forward to that. Last Wednesday, I stayed to see Lou Barlow (at left), of Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, perform a solo set that was filled with wonderful acoustic guitar work and led by his strong, distinctive voice. The lo-fi pioneer had the audience in the palm of his hand and you could have heard a pin drop in the rapt attention payed to him. Great set.