My Darling Clementine with Steve Nieve. Country Darkness Vol. 2. Fretstore Records

country-darkness-vol-2-1-350x350-1On this second instalment of their three piece interpretation of songs by Elvis Costello, My Darling Clementine continue to seek out elements of country darkness from the man’s catalogue. From the start of their career, My Darling Clementine (Lou Dalgleish and Michael Weston King) have been in love with classic male/female country duetting and their application of this to the songs of Costello continues to impress. Furthermore, they have delved deep into Costello’s songbook (it would be a pretty obsessive Costello fan who could immediately pinpoint these songs) avoiding most of his more familiar numbers.

Joined again by Costello’s most steadfast musical companion, Steve Nieve, on keyboards along with the core of Richard Hawley’s Band (Colin Elliott, Shez Sheridan and Dean Beresford on guitar, bass and drums), My Darling Clementine don’t detour from the approach they took on the first EP. The songs chosen are given an MDC makeover, sometimes subtle, sometimes more radical as on the Tex Mex take on Different Finger (originally on Trust).

They kick off with Either Side Of The Same Town (from The Delivery Man) with Costello’s southern soul delivery given a full Muscle Shoals’ treatment. With requisite piano and organ prominent, the duo sing magnificently as they tear at the emotions while a wonderfully lyrical guitar solo seals the deal. I Lost You, a co-write with Jim Lauderdale, comes from an album Costello recorded in Nashville (National Ransom) and its bouncy acoustic thrash is here transformed into a slick country rock number with a slight sixties sheen as Nieve’s piano drives the song along while twangy guitars manage the shift changes. The vocal exchanges here are quite brilliant as they variously riposte and parry and then join together in harmony.

It’s back to Costello’s earlier years as they tackle Different Finger, a song which in its original incarnation had a honky tonk feel. Here, My Darling Clementine take it south of the border with Pierro Tucci adding his accordion to the mix. Throw in some fine Augie Meyer like vox parpings from Nieve and there’s a perfect Tex Mex blend here. The kaleidoscopic jollity of the music here might disguise the darkness but it’s there aplenty as these two lovers have their secrets with the song coming across like a musical Tijuana Bible (albeit without the titillation). The darkness does descend however on the funereal Still Too Soon To Know, plucked from Brutal Youth. Here, the embers of a relationship are poked at to see if there’s still a spark as our singers search their souls over a sombre backing.

As with the first volume, this EP is available on 12” vinyl or download. According to Michael Weston King, the promised third EP is on hold due to this pesky virus, but given the quality of the first two releases, that’s another light at the end of the tunnel we should all be looking forward to.

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