Is Mike Clark a one-man Colorado music institution? Seems that way sometimes when you consider his much-loved bandography: The Ghost of Michael Clark, The Haunted Windchimes, and The Sugar Sounds.
Not to be outdone by himself, Clark now fronts a band called The River Arkansas (he lives beside said river) with some of our state’s best players, including members of Clouds + Mountains, Spirits of the Red City, and Princess Music. “Golden Light” is the band’s debut, and it tips the hat to Clark’s previous endeavors, drawing from rock, Americana, soul, and gypsy folk.
The River Arkansas is Clark, Macon Terry, Robin Chestnut, Rachel Sliker, and Danah Olivetree in whose lithe hands banjo, drums, violin, guitar, cello, upright bass, and more make a mighty noise.
The sound of this band is absolutely at home at any mountain festival, but don’t assume it to be another one-trick folk pony. No way. This’ll play in the city.
Just to mention a couple of my favorite tracks … “Cold Lonesome Feeling” rolls along with a loose R&B tempo and gets a little zing from some jangly lead guitar licks. Sample lyric: “Well I try my best to be kind / But my heart’s somewhere down the line / Breaking free, shaking loose, and busting out / Well there ain’t no love left in the city / Ain’t no heart in the walking dead / A cold lonesome feeling in my head /
Contrast that with the title track, a slow-burning and mournful missive in which violin and cello soar over some truly reflective lyrics. I’ll take this one with my 6 a.m. coffee or my dram on the porch when the sun’s going down. It is a beauty.
The album’s getting its proper Denver debut at Mercury Cafe on April 1st. In the broadest terms, this band sounds like Colorado. That alone ought to get you in the door, but the nuanced performances throughout the recording will keep you coming back and maybe even haunt you. Just a little.