Half Deaf Clatch - The Blues Continuum
Half Deaf Clatch has a new record, listeners to UK blues radio may have heard it teased with tracks turning up here and there, but to many he’s still going to be a brand new name, despite his prolific output. If you’re one of the uninitiated, Clatch is Andrew McClatchie, a UK resident with a solid line in delta influenced solo acoustic blues, and if you want an introduction to him you could do no better than this new disc.
The Blues Continuum, as that’s what the disc is titled, is mainly one man and a guitar, a single voice and a single instrument augmented only by the sound of a stomping foot for percussion. It’s something that has been done many times before, from folks like Robert Johnson, through John Lee Hooker, John Hammond and now to Clatch. While it may not be bringing anything radically new to the world in terms of sound, it’s a completely honest way of delivering music and one very telling in terms of the artist’s talent and the quality of the material. If you don’t have good songs, and the ability to deliver them in an engaging and moving manner, any attempt at an album of this ilk will fall flat on it’s face.
There’s no need to worry about that here, because Clatch has all the talent and songwriting chops to deliver a record that entertains with no need for extraneous augmentation. Occasionally a second guitar crops up in the mix, along with some judicious doubling of vocal lines, but it’s nothing that distracts from the simplicity of the presentation and there are less production tricks used here than on early John Lee Hooker records.
There are strong songs here too, with lyrics that scan and aren’t shoehorned into place in unnatural ways. They cover a gamut of typical subjects; love, loss, death, along with the heroes of the genre. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been discussed by other artists, but Clatch does it with an individual approach. Deathly Blue is a highlight, with it’s touch of female backing vocals providing a great contrast to Clatch’s own Tom Wait’s-y rasp, and marking it out as the least ‘solo effort’ on the whole album.
What we have in Blues Continuum is a record that proves that solo acoustic blues can still connect to an audience and that it doesn’t require a massive band or a raft of production tricks to produce music that entertains and moves the listener. This is easily Clatch’s best effort to date, the songs and the performances are powerful and tight, and the lack of fuss makes for a refreshing experience.