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My Darling Clementine

How Do You Plead?

(Five Head Entertainment; US: 4 Sep 2012; UK: 8 Nov 2011)

My Darling Clementine: How Do You Plead?

I’ve said it before. If anyone’s going to reinvigorate country music it may very well be the British and not the Americans who are up to the task. My Darling Clementine––the husband and wife duo consisting of Michael Weston King (husband) and Lou Dalgleish (wife)––is further proof of this undisputable truth.


Neither King nor Dalgleish is new to the pursuit. He has a host of albums under his belt with the Good Sons (once hailed as the English answer to Uncle Tupelo) and on his own. He’s also scored collaborative work with Chris Hillman, Ron Sexsmith and Townes Van Zandt. She released four albums on her own twixt 1993 and 2000 while working with Elvis Costello, Bryan Ferry and Sophie B. Hawkins among many others.


Such credentials, nice as they are, don’t necessarily guarantee musical harmony and perfection. Luckily, lightning has struck for this couple and they’ve emerged with a near perfect bag of duets that will likely inspire enthusiastic cries of “authentic”, “mesmerizing” and “the next Johnny and June”. But you––and they––needn’t worry about that. All that matters is that How Do You Plead? hits the spot with ace writing, singing and playing.


The usual suspects are all here––drinkin’, lyin’, cheatin’, double crossin’ best friends and wives, heartache, loneliness, and the ache of the lonely––and while it all feels fresh it’s clear that MDC knows and honors tradition. The duo eases into the whole affair with “By A Thread”, which spotlights Dalgleish’s abilities as an expressive duet partner whose voice calls to mind Emmylou Harris with its easy, ethereal utterances and breathtaking beauty.


Naturally the pair can get up to rockin’ side of country as well––via “Nothing Left To Say”, a rollicking good time that Chris Isaak will wish he wrote, and “Going Back To Memphis” which sounds, like so much of this, like vintage 1965. Elsewhere, “Put Your Hair Back” if effortlessly beautiful, “I Bought Some Roses” puts a more contemporary spin on the country duet, and “Reserved For Me and You” carries with it all the hallmarks of a classic cheatin’ song.


The duo outdoes itself a little with the six-minute-plus “The Other Half”, although you find yourself liking it despite its shortcoming––it’s probably too long for a song that has so little to say. The addition of “It’s All Too Much”, the George Harrison composition retooled for a recent Yellow Submarine compilation put together by the folks at MOJO, is a major plus. The couple owns the track outright and proves once more that the second grumpiest Beatle really could write a tune. The demo of “By A Thread” almost outdoes the version that opens the album––a sign that, perhaps, King and Dalgleish should trust their instincts and go for the most basic, pared down versions. Maybe.


Whatever this pair does in the future it’s sure to be memorable and filled with smart writing and performances that do not disappoint. How Do You Plead? is as smart and refreshing a first offering as one can remember and a sign, to be sure, that the British are indeed coming.

Rating:

Jedd Beaudoin is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He holds an MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Wichita State University and hosts Strange Currency six nights week for Wichita Public Radio. His writing has appeared in No Depression and The Crab Orchard Review as well as at websites such as Ytsejam.com and Amazon.com.


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