Young roots/blues singer-songwriter Nic Clark has seen more than his share of troubles, heartbreak, and derision as anyone, but you’d never necessarily pick up on that from the positive, bright outlook in his songs. It’s as refreshing as when Steve Forbert first burst on the scene. Clark’s music is not all like Forbert’s other than both have a natural gift for hooks. What they both deliver is a special “feel good” vibe. This is the second album for Mexican American Clark, and it’s produced by Charlie Hunter. Yes, that same guitar great Charlie Hunter that works with jazz vocalist Kurt Elling in Superblue. Hunter is always support, never intrusive as the spotlight is on Clark throughout. Joining Hunter is drummer George Sluppick (Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Morgan James). Clark plays guitar (mostly dobro) and harmonica and sings lead vocals on all tunes, all originals except one.
Clark is mature and humble enough to realize that his problems are the likes of many and hopes that his songs have the same healing power for others as they do for him. He says, “My experience is very common in America. I work an Amazon warehouse job, and I’m really ashamed of it. As a working musician, I need to make ends meet. Take one shift at is “supporting multi-generational families, etc. I’m just so grateful I have my music to keep me out of trouble.” Clark opens with the kind of harmonica riff we might associate with Jimmy Reed, is the hook laden “Laughing in the Rain,” as Clark expresses his joy for just getting through daily routines which were always easy for a high school youngster that weighed almost 400 pounds. He’s battled this eating disorder since his youth but has maintained a persevering spirt as he articulated in endearing shuffle “Don’t Count Yourself Out.” Another of these wildly upbeat songs is the title track, his theme song about the importance of positive outlook.
He’s dealt with his share of loss too, the subject of “It’ll Be Alright. Clark spent two years commuting between Northern California and his home state of Colorado before he ran out of cash in August 2022. Soon enough, he found himself driving his uncle to daily dialysis appointments during a time when his uncle mourned his mother’s death after caretaking for her for 14 years. The passing of Clark’s grandma was devastating, and he wrote “It’ll Be Alright” to cope. Be assured there’s more pain and suffering behind many of these songs than on many blues albums, where much of it is fictionalized. In Clark’s case, his songs are honest expositions, which stays true as well for the lone cover songs. J.B. Lenoir’s “Good Advice” stems from an incident before his grandma passed. Clark was walking to her house when he was 386 pounds and his girlfriend had just broken up with him. The song pays tribute to the four-hour conversation he had with his grandmother.
Some of his troubles are self-inflicted as “Try To Understand” was written after of totaling two cars when he was 21 and 23 years-old. Again, Clark takes the high road, laying down a remarkably uplifting tune. “Anxiety Blues” relates to Clark’s addiction to coffee during the pandemic. “Flying Blind” extends his own struggles to those of his niece. Clark’s large family meant they all helped out in various ways, and Clark helped raise his niece and nephew. He’s never performed the song for her. Sacred pedal steel player DaShawn Hickman gives it that much more emotion. Others relate to experiences with friends and others who helped him arrive at who he is today such as “Hurricanes” (where he says “don’t worry about the bullsh** and pick yourself up one more time.”) and “She’s A Fighter,” about a married couple (a nutritionist and musician) who helped Clark with his weight-loss. The wife was diagnosed with Lyme disease and the medical bills for the chronic disease were a constant struggle, hence “She’s A Fighter.”
Clark’s harmonica skills are on display throughout the album but never more so than on “How I Met The Blues,” the album’s only dark song, that was written when Clark was only 11-years-old. The sudden death of his 13-year-old cousin turned the first day of summer break into a living hell. (lines you’ll hear in the song). Clark confessed to being nervous playing such a personal song for Hunter and Sluppick, leaning more on the harmonica here than any other. He says, “Well, we started playing it, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I hit a really vulnerable spot. If you are going to sing the blues, there’s an obligation to not hold back and just do it.”
As Clark exits he essentially reminds us to stay on guard. Life can be so fleeting. “Breathe Slow” relates to a friend who had a panic attack while driving. Sometime after writing the song, Clark himself experienced a panic attack on highway 85 in California, and luckily, he was close to an off-ramp, and he got himself safely into a Walmart parking lot to settle down. So, relax, breathe slowly, let go, and put this in your player. You’re guaranteed to feel better. Nic Clark is beacon of light – one that we need to keep watching closely.
More About the Artist
Clark lends his inspiring music to those in need by leading harmonica workshops and live performances at Denver Children’s hospitals, the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Bayview Opera House Covid-19 testing vaccination site in San Francisco as part of an outreach program with Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and virtual performances for various detention centers through the non-profit Bread & Roses.
- Jim Hynes
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