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Mike Clark and the Sugar Sounds - Round and Round
I am writing this review with a copy of “Out With the Crow”, The Haunted Windchimes’ 2012 album, in my hands. It is a record, like most that come out of Blank Tape Records, where the song writing feels as old as the last generation still living. Mike Clark has lent his talents to the 19__s folk music that The Windchimes have made since their first album, but the piece of him that is taken up by that obligation seems to have left out something he is absolutely in love with. His prior work is a worthwhile note to take , but I’m here to Talk about Mike Clark and the Sugar Sounds.
It was last year when I first heard about Clark joining up with The Sugar Sounds at a concert sponsored by KRCC in the CU quad. Mike stood on stage with the likes of Inaiah Lujan, Mark Benning, Alex Koshak, Grant Sabin, and Ian Bourgal. A band filled with a cast of the Colorado music scene, each one signed to Blank Tape Records. Each one successful in creating their own brand of classic music, in bands like The Haunted Windchimes, Satellite, The Flumps and The Grant Sabin Band, Grant Sabin (as a solo project), and The Changing Colors – listed to match the prior list of band members. It could be called a super-group but it is more the result of a tightly nit group created by the record label. Mike Clark wanted to take his own music into the studio and everyone was glad to go in there with him to get it done.
Mike Clark found a team to back him up, and came out with a record that sinks its teeth deep into soul, the kind that makes me sad 50s bars arrant a big thing in this city. “Round and Round” is filled with the types of music one would love to describe as “White Boy ___.” It is easy to look at Mike, and the crew he travels with, as just another group of white boys trying to make soulful blues rock, but I see him as a white boy who has soul. Clark sings on the record like every lyric is his emotional release, at times he sounds tortured, and that is what turned this album from something I like to something I love. The sound is something I could look to just about any 50s band to get (good or bad), but to have it this sincere and honest is something rare even when Ben E. King was singing “Stand by Me” for the first time.
Clark hangs in a high register for the duration of every song on this album. He could oppose Alabama Shakes as their opposite; A woman who sings in a man’s pitch, and Mike who can even feel feminine. Every vocalist in The Haunted Windchimes has their own unique touch, some stand out in the band, and others stand out as unique singers by any music standard. Mike Clark was no exception when he wrote a song for The Windchimes, but nothing he sung on for them could have hinted at what he is doing here. I could groove to a Windchimes song. A Sugar Sounds song will leave me sunken in my bright red, rubber seated, restaurant booth asking myself introspective questions about why I didn’t order a milk shake for me and “My Girl”. One may not connect with vocals alone, and maybe that will make this harder to enjoy. His voice makes the songs, it is what I would immediately grab onto if any of these songs showed up in my unnamed playlist.
Buddy Holly could come next in the CD tray and if it is not a hit, it would not stand out as much as this. “Burn You Up” is the song I keep coming back to, it hits the hardest emotionally and half way through his voice stands alone on the lyric “you want good love, you know it is gonna burn you a lot”. The record brings me in and pulls me through the next song in the same way. The title track is the kind of music that should have been performed during any party scene in Hairspray and, because of that it changes the mood and flow of the tracklist, and only once does that happen. The only other song that does the same thing as “Round and Round” might be “Summer Girls” but, even then, it is the way he is singing that makes the song.
Grant Sabin, even though known as one of the best guitarists in the Springs, and his trumpet team with Ian Borgal’s sax to pump up the songs when they need energy; though, it is not a common occurrence. Alex’s drums are at their most foundational and Clark builds very little on top of them, just a few guitars and bass. And that is the sound of this album; it is the sound behind the voice. All the guest musicians make worthwhile contributions but, in an attempt to not say “well, these other guys are good too”, they are there only to back up Clark’s songs that may have been just as great without them.
Mike Clark set out to launch a solo career and what he came out with is something special. A simple desire to create music that flows with his kind of soul gave Colorado Springs it’s own little slice of Van Morrison. I wish I could stay glowing threw this whole review but I do have one problem. The vocals topping off the album on “Honey” leave me wondering why this only amounted to 8 songs. My only real complaint is that I want more, so I’m hoping this isn’t that last I hear from the sugar sounds.
If you guys would like to form your own opinions, you can listen to the album in its entirety by clicking the artwork.
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