Declaration of Independents: Highlighting the Great Releases of Indie Acts

My Darling Clementine (with Steve Nieve) | Country Darkness Vol. 2 | Fretsore Records

Videos by American Songwriter

The one-time leader of the English Americana outfit The Good Sons and a solo singer/songwriter of considerable merit, Michael Weston King currently makes music with his wife, Lou Dalgleish, as a domestic duo dubbed My Darling Clementine. While they conjure up a decidedly melodramatic image, one that emphasizes a distinct tears-in-their-beers persona born from the pitfalls of wretched romance, the music they make parlays a legitimate country croon. The second of a successive series of EPs recorded with Elvis Costello’s erstwhile keyboard whiz Steve Nieve, it boasts, appropriately, four songs by the Big E himself. Given Costello’s penchant for arched drama, it’s a perfect fit, with King and Dalgleish wringing applicable emotion and their trademark humor from each expressive entry. “I Lost You,” a co-write with Jim Lauderdale, fares best as far as a down-home delivery is concerned, but all the other offerings find countrified credibility as well. Clearly, Americana is no longer a purely American domain.

EG Kight | The Trio Sessions | Blue South Records

Popularly known as “the Georgia Songbird” and imbued with the influence of the legendary Koko Taylor, EG Kight sets a standard all her own. A singer and musician specializing in Chicago blues, she’s as classy, sassy, confident and credible as they come. That’s been proven as her past efforts alongside George Jones, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, Luther Allison, Hubert Sumlin, Taj Mahal and Pinetop Perkins will readily attest. The winner of multiple Blues Music Award nominations, she renews her storied standing with her first album in nearly a decade. Though several of its songs are standards — Willie Dixon’s “Evil,” Robert Johnson’s classic “Come On In My Kitchen” and a singular take on Leonard Cohen’s moving “Hallelujah” in particular — they blend effortlessly with Kight’s searing and spirited originals. The rest of her trio — guitarist Ken Wynn and drummer/percussionist/harpist Gary Porter — add adroit accompaniment, albeit in a stripped setting. Kight provides new hues for the blues while ensuring they remain compelling and engaging all at the same time. 

The Apartments | In and Out of the Light | (Talitres)

Formed in 1978 and helmed by singer/songwriter Peter Milton Walsh, the Australian band The Apartments maintains a melodic tradition that’s always been synonymous with the sounds spawned from down under. As its title suggests, In and Out of the Light is flush with luminous fare that’s soft and subdued in spots, but quietly commanding overall. Wistful, dreamy and hypnotic throughout, it finds lush harmonies, exquisite instrumentation, fluid melodies and a softly-hued sensibility ensuring its immediate appeal. The effusive emotions — especially evident in a song such as “What’s Beauty to Do” — allow for a decidedly upward gaze, although that’s seemingly contradicted by a similarly suggestive song boldly titled “I Don’t Give a Fuck About You Anymore.” Overall, Walsh and company’s elusive soundscapes provide the kind of quiet contemplation that’s needed more than ever these days, as well as a respite all its own.

Rick Clark | A Million Fallen Tears | (Cole Has Records)

The late Gene Clark left behind a storied legacy, first as a member of the folk group The New Christy Minstrels and later as the singer and frontman for the Byrds, a band whose innovative folk rock literally paved the way for Americana in the years to come. His efforts with the duo Dillard and Clark, the influential Flying Burrito Brothers and his own solo output made him seem larger than life, and when he died unexpectedly in May 1991, an incredible career came to a close. Fortunately, those he left behind continue to keep his legend alive; Clark’s talents are imbued in the family genes. His son, Kai Clark, recently released Silver Raven, an album that replays many of his father’s classics, while Gene’s younger sibling, Rick Clark, makes his bow with A Million Fallen Tears, an album consisting mostly of his own originals and two relatively obscure songs, one of which, “Del Gato,” he co-wrote with his brother. The similarity in style is unmistakable, both in his nuanced vocals and songs that convey a strong emotional appeal. Consider this a case of deja vu, and reason to rejoice for a storied heritage that remains intact. 

The Brothers Landau | Haven’t Got a Name | (independent)

The symmetry between siblings is generally undeniable, and while the relationship can sometimes be difficult, the music made by The Brothers Landau suggests a distinctly soothing symmetry. The follow-up to their first full-length, Parallax, the Brothers’ new EP Haven’t Got a Name makes a similarly soothing impression through its decidedly low-cast delivery. The casual caress is found in a combination of guitar, cello, pedal steel and occasional clarinet, keys and percussion — an approach that evokes a charming chamber folk feel in its own specific way. Songs such as “Haven’t Got a Name,” “Steady Joy,” “Monday” and “A Way Down” emphasize that clear and comforting sound, with the tempestuously-titled “A Major Jerk” providing the only disruption to the meditative mood. And even then, that shimmer is sustained.

Photo Credit: EG Kight

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