My Darling Clementine
Preview of Union Chapel gig in London
added: 1 May 2012
interviewed by: David Spencer
Michael Weston King is on a station in Germany when I ring to talk about a new project with his wife, Lou Dalgleish. My Darling Clementine has taken four years to release a record for various reasons, and I only hope that his train from Hamburg to Copenhagen won’t take as long.
The band has been receiving rave reviews from critics and the likes of Radio 2, for what is a very traditional sounding country record. How Do You Plead? is more than a gentle nod towards the duets of Tammy Wynette and George Jones, and their voices blend in just as satisfying a way.
“Lou and I have been together for 13 years now, and although she’s sung on a few of my albums and we’ve done some shows, it’s always been her show or my show, not something that’s kind of equal billing. Given that my other half is such a great singer and writer, it was crazy for us not to make a record together.”
But finding a way to release the record took four years, with funding issues and then rejections from labels. Despite help from fans to get the album recorded, labels were still not interested. Eventually an independent label was found and now a deal’s been signed in the States.
“I feel rather vindicated really, because the reviews have been great, the reaction’s been very good. It’s been a long arduous path to say the least but I am delighted that we stuck with it.”
Given their background, it is not surprising that the chemistry appears to have worked. King has released 15 albums - solo, and with his alt. country pioneering band The Good Sons, while also collaborating with the likes of Chris Hillman and Ron Sexsmith, while Dalgleish is the honey-voiced former dancer and actress turned singer/songwriter who has released four solo albums. Not that she was a particular fan of this type of music before.
“She was coming from more of a jazz and pop background really, not much of a fan. She now loves the genre and is writing songs in that style although there’s only one song that’s an actual co-write but it is certainly a collaborative thing in terms of the writing process. We are not blood relatives but the fact we are husband and wife, maybe that adds to the process. It certainly adds to the tension a little bit!”
I decide not to push the ‘tension’ reference, as you get the impression that despite that comment, the whole process has been hugely enjoyable, despite the time it took to get the record released. Now a second album is already being talked about and could be released as soon as next year, but maybe not in exactly the same style. But there will still be a country feel.
“When country music is bad, it’s about as bad as it gets really. The big thing that turned me onto country was Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue. On that album his taste was immaculate in the songs and writers that he chose. But there is an awful lot of bad stuff out there. To a lot of people country music might be deemed as Garth Brooks, which is about as far away from country music as Black Sabbath and Lady Gaga.”
The sound and feel of the album is nostalgic, but in a good way. The sleeve notes even list the types and age of instruments used (for example a 1948 Carlton snare drum or 1966 Hammond A100 organ). King says it was important that they captured the right sound.
“We used an analogue studio and the album was almost recorded live. An old sounding record intentionally, played by old guys on old instruments and recorded on old tape recorders. These days artists think 'oh there’s a gap' (in sound), we’ve got to fill it with something. Neil Brockbank who produced the record with me is very much of the mind that less is more. If it’s a good song and what is played is good, then you don’t need to overplay it. The music should stand up for itself.”
To match that sense of tradition King talks about, the husband and wife band are to perform their first headline show at Islington's Union Chapel on Thursday 10th May. You get a sense that the venue will match their sound and style perfectly.
“The first time I ever played there was with Townes Van Zandt in the mid nineties, only a few years before he died. The Tindersticks had just had a hit with one of his songs called Kathleen. It is a fabulous place and very fitting too. The first gig we did as My Darling Clementine when we launched the album was at St Pancras Old Church. When the band started playing, Lou and I walked up the aisle to a George Jones and Tammy Wynette song, Ceremony. So we could do it in even grander style at the Union Chapel. Maybe we could reinstate our vows! Or maybe not”
If they did do that it would certainly make for a good country lyric!
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