W.C. Clark | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

W.C. Clark 

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Bassist and guitarist W.C. Clark came of age in Austin in the mid-50s, a particularly fertile period for Texas blues. Young Turks like Freddie King and Albert Collins were adding a new intensity to the linear, hornlike guitar style they'd learned from T-Bone Walker and his generation of gulf coast fret men; at the same time, roadhouse veterans like Big Joe Turner still toured through the area regularly, keeping the jump-blues and boogie traditions alive. Clark was a member of the house band at Charlie's Playhouse in Austin, which gave him the chance to hone his chops behind Collins, Turner, and other visiting celebrities, and in the early 60s he added his sinewy guitar to soul man Joe Tex's traveling show. He also mentored young Austin firebrands like Stevie Ray Vaughan--he played bass in Vaughan's Triple Threat Revue and cowrote his hit "Cold Shot." Clark self-released his debut album in the late 80s, then followed it in the 90s with three more on the Black Top label, showcasing his diverse influences--gulf coast swing, sweat-drenched roadhouse boogie, witty fatback soul--and reaching his first national audience. On his latest, From Austin With Soul (Alligator), Clark's guitar style is still sprightly and adventurous: he skips atop his sidemen's hard-driving accompaniment, his phrases expanding from quick picked bursts into long hornlike arcs; T-Bone's influence is especially evident in the way he uses string bends to create bridges into new ideas, rather than just as seasoning. And his vocal style covers plenty of ground: on countryish ballads like "How Long Is a Heartache Supposed to Last?" and "Real Live Livin' Hurtin' Man" he soars like a gospel singer, while on pumping boogie-soul workouts like "Bitchy Men" his phrasing is so muscular and his tone so leathery that his voice sounds like another rhythm instrument. Saturday, April 27, 10 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash; 773-427-0333.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Max Crace.

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