The latest Clovis alter-ego has arrived from Mike Ross. The Clovis Limit – The Tennessee Transition follows on from Clovis Limit – Part 1 (2019) & Part 2 (2020) and now we slip and with plenty of slide to Part 3 exploring the rich tapestry of Southern musical tradition a companion album to Parts 1 & 2. The transition is a gentle re-listening of songs we have met before – nine Mike Ross originals 4 songs from Clovis 1 & 2 a version of an old song Ross number and three classics from Messrs; Bukka White; Charlie Patton and Blind Willie McTell.
The Clovis Limit 1 receives – The Tennessee Transition
Opening with the last track of the first Clovis album Driftwood, the second single from the album. This is an acoustic re-imaging. Above all it is a Slide Guitar delight with the earthy rawness of Mike’s vocals connects the guitar and the lyrics. The lyrics are from the fruitful well of blues lexicography given an uplifting modern twist. The perfect sound for sipping your favourite beverage sitting on a porch enjoying the late evening sun, your feet will be tapping and your heart will soar with the slide sweeping the six-strings. We follow the story while we drift with the wood.
The acoustic version of Grow In Your Garden strips back the Black Crowes approach of the original and the lyrics shine with a power with the strumming of a melodic guitar augments the tension the Ross’ vocals bring to the garden of his music.
Young Man is like a new song, totally re-imagined crunching acoustic guitar, this is still early blues but now it is set on the porch rather than a sleazy jazz joint. Listen and take your pick which you prefer, your choice I believe will simply reflect the mood you are in.
Count-in and we are down deep in the country with a high tempo dance, feet tapping blues of Blow Away a snippet that leaves you wanting more
The Clovis Limit 2 receives – The Tennessee Transition
The Guitar is energised as we are launched into None Of Your Business. Another short song that unfortunately never quite delivers as if fades away rather than ending in a vocal or guitar punch.
Don’t Say A Word, the guitar has a determined flow This was Simon Green’s favourite with its many layered guitar sound when on it original form. Now the layers are more subtle and has a feel of a cowboy song to be re-told around a campfire. This is followed by a long-titled tack, The Only Place You Ever Take Me Is Down. The guitar is king on this number, it demands to be heard and fights back as Mike refrains ‘The Only Place you Take Me Is Down.’ The guitar refuses to be abused and brow beaten. The closing phrasing of the guitar is clever as the notes are dragged down by the protagonist within the song.
The Leviathan should be a beast. The guitar is strident and strong the lyrics flow it just never builds the deep dark story that should hold the listener so it is the monster within The Clovis Epic. Another track that is just to short to really build.
Clovis – the Tennessee Transition
A trip into Bukka’s catalogue with Shake Em On Down and authentic acoustic blues with a twisting emotions pour from the vocal guitar combination. Charlie Patton next gets the Clovis treatment as we are Screamin’ & Hollerin’ for more.
Next up is a Mike Ross number regularly heard played live with Fixing To Di and fits neatly in this section. If you didn’t know who it was written by you be looking for one of the old bluesmen for the author. Now we have a helping Blind Willie McTell’s Statesborough Blues, a delicious interpretation of quality walking, talking blues.
The album closes with a revisit to Young Man now given a French re-working and we are sitting on a Boulevard in Paris as Mike jumps continents showing the versatility of a great song in the hands on a a guitar maestro,
It is definitely our business to get down deep and enjoy Mike’s interpretation of American roots music as he blends Blues, country and Americana and add a twist of English South Coast. This companion piece to the ’Duology’ revisits songs and strips them back. Often the songs are truncated rather then re-explored into a new imaging of where the lyrics can take you in the solo form. That said, this is an acoustic blues infused album that will always be welcomed on any play list. Leaving you with Mike’s thoughts…
“I guess I wanted to have a ‘companion work’ to my two Clovis albums: something that would give the listener a bit of an idea as to what influences me as a writer and solo performer, and I think the finished product illustrates that very well.”
Bluesdoodles Rating: Three Doodle Paws: Great Listening as Mike strips back songs from Clovis Pt1 & 2. The lyrics shine, guitar stings, some were too short and overall the album lacked a sense of purpose. Songs will always make a welcomed appearance on any playlist.
Grow In Your Garden
None Of Your Business
Don’t Say A Word
The Only Place You Ever Take Me Is Down
Shake Em On Down
Screamin’ & Hollerin’ The Blues
Fixing To Die
Young Man (Paris Transition)
All tracks written by Mike Ross except
Shake Em On Down by Bukka White
Screamin’ And Hollerin’ The Blues by Charlie Patton
Statesborough Blues by Blind Willie McTell
Recorded live at Electric Studios, Brighton & Hove, 16th December 2021
Engineered, Mixed & Mastered by Al Scott