|Mike Ross auditions for a remake of Easy Rider|
If that hard rockin’ segment in ‘Thanks A Lot’ suggests that Ross is prepared to get heavy, he confirms it on ‘None Of Your Business’, on which he transports a ‘Stormbringer’-like juddering riff to Dixie, takes things down into a dreamy guitar solo over cooing backing vocals and subtle organ, then hits the throttle again.
Joe Walsh echoes are evident on the witty and swinging ‘The Only Place You Ever Take Me Is Down’, and later on ‘Don’t Say A Word’, both tracks featuring crackling, abrasive slide playing. The former also benefits from an expressively contemptuous vocal, and some swaggering slide/organ interplay en route to its amusing vibraslap finish, while ‘Don’t Say A Word’ kicks ass with a stomping beat and fuzzy rhythm guitar.
Ross has more clubs in his bag though. ‘Hammer’ belies its title in wistful, plaintive style, with soaring harmonies and glittering guitar picking, a shimmering bridge and an airy solo. ‘The Loser’ combines acoustic guitar and Rhodes piano in a simple, understated and rootsy way. ‘Leviathan’ is something else again, evolving from an Electric Ladyland psychedelic intro until it acquires more shape with a slithering electric guitar reading of the melody from ‘The Loser’, before Ross comes in with an echoing vocal to evoke an eerie blues vibe – the song is delightfully off-kilter.
A couple of instrumentals are more straightforward. Fizzing guitar opens ‘Tell Jerry’, which shifts shapes between two guitar motifs over carefree, bopping bass from Ricky Kinrade. ‘Unforgiven’, meanwhile, is an Allmans-like shuffling affair on which Darren Lee’s swinging drums are essential to the lightness of mood, while Ross’s guitar switches effortlessly between its catchy theme and sparkling soloing, and Stevie Watts weighs in with a typically groovy organ solo. And the latter is dreamily reprised on the closing ‘Unforgiven (Ramport Transition)’, its elements of acoustic guitar, cosmic synth lines, and ethereal harmonies repeating the title played off against fuzzed up guitar.
But before that there’s the nine minutes’ worth of ‘Shoot You If You Run’, which is a game of two halves. Upfront there’s serrated slide over fuzzed up rhythm guitar, creating an edgy tense atmosphere reinforced by the stumbling rhythm, pushy, competing voices, and a squealing solo. Then it all dissolves into an arresting, if decidedly oddball, second segment, comprising spooky, unaccompanied guitar over barely discernible radio voices and Sputnik signals.
It’s easy to find late Sixties/early Seventies American rock points of references across The Clovis Limit Pt.2. But Mike Ross draws them all together with his own personality, and makes them sound fresh and contemporary. And aside from the rhythm section and organ, it’s just him deploying a swathe of instruments to deliver this many sided, hugely enjoyable, fun album.
I just have one question. What the hell is the Clovis Limit?
The Clovis Limit Pt.2 is released by Taller Records on 30 October.