The New Van Casts His Spell
Review by Nick Dalton, Daily Express, 2002
Terry Clarke is the new Van Morrison. He's a man who starts with the basics of Irish music and turns them into something that transcends all barriers; deconstructing the obvious and rebuilding the elements into something familiar but darkly different.
Clarke takes the themes and feelings and sounds of Ireland's musical heritage, lets them party alongside the sounds of rootsy American country and rock and then sees something new and wonderful stumble out the door at the end of the evening. Green Voodoo is the album. His eighth, which, as the title suggests, melds his Irish melancholy with the feel of hot, sweaty U.S. nights. What's curious is that Clarke has never even lived in Ireland. His dad emigrated from Sligo and the young Terry, with an English mother, was brought up in the Irish community in Reading, a mere Blarney stone's throw from London.
The music, he says, comes from childhood visits, and from an almost unconscious understanding of his roots. Yet any chance that he'd wind up caught in the cliches of tradition quickly disappeared when he discovered Buddy Holly and then Van. A youth spent in rock bands eventually gave way to writing songs that his spiritual if not actual roots. "I'd been brought up in an Irish community but, like a lot of people, things don't take shape until you're older" he says. I wanted to get a million miles away from that culture, anything to do with church. I grew up with the Stones, Beatles, rock 'n' roll, but then I started playing mandolin and it all crept up on me by default". The new direction took in a delicious soulfulness and the tuneful twang of Texan music, resulting in highly regarded early Nineties The Shelly River (now reissued on Catfish). It's not just the music that crosses borders ... Clarke's lyrics swerve like a speeding roadster between the hazy morns on the Irish coast to crazy nights in Louisiana. Songs with titles like Angel in Ireland, Goin' Back To Belfast and The Mayo Mambo. Clarke's American links came as he met a string of left-field country acts who toured Europe in the Eighties, Green Voodoo , like most of his albums, was recorded in Austin, Texas (where he spends much of his time) backed by a set of local luminaries. For the most part it gently rocks with a wonderful mix of country, smokey jazz, rock 'n' roll and ballads that at first sound traditional but are far from it. Clarke's previous Irish dates have gone down a storm and more are likely later in the year. Latch on to his mesmeric take on Ireland before he hits the big time. Watch out Van Morrison !
"With a mojo kiss
and a whisky twist
headlights shining in the evening mist
emerald hanging from your wrist
Mother Goose laugh and hiss
Into the Green Voodoo" - Terry Clarke
Photos by Terry Clarke: Near Ennis, Co. Clare.
Guitars (Geoff Dye artwork)