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Anthony ‘Swamp Dog’ Clark – Raw
Self Release – 2010
7 tracks; 35.41 minutes
With so many harp players like Charlie Musselwhite, Risk Estrin, Kim Wilson and James Cotton playing all over the circuit, other talented harp players stand a chance of being pushed into the background.
Such is the case with Anthony ‘Swamp Dog’ Clark. It’s a name that won’t ring a bell with too many blues fans all over the country. Only a good press agent and a heavy touring schedule can get any blues musician established. And if you’re not on a major record label, you’ll independently release it yourself.
The CD offers only seven tracks clocking in over thirty-five minutes. No writer credits indicate who wrote the tracks.
Altogether it’s a nice little package. Leading track “One More Mile To Go” with its rocking groove gets things off to the right start with Clark’s nicotine-inflected vocals and leading harp lines.
Shuffles are the carte blanche of the blues and here Anthony makes use of that in the dancer “Do Unto Others.” Clark doesn’t over-play. He can solo on the instrument but makes a point of keeping any hot-dog tendencies in check. It seems Anthony’s philosophy of playing the blues is always to approach it with a team attitude. Special guest Nadine Rae adds vocals to “Do Unto Others.”
With bassist Charles Adkins, drummer Andy Hamberger, and guitar players Ken Sparks and Glenn Alexander, Clark has truly assembled a tight outfit of musicians. Which truly helps if you’re going to get down to business of playing slow blues. This happens nicely in the basement dirty tune “Jump.” The band outright cooks as Clark’s levitating harp lines soar above the ensemble.
The energy picks up a few notches as the band shifts into a fast shuffle of the boogie blaster “Moanin.” Although it ends too quickly, the good time atmosphere continues in “Old Man” which in a live setting would go down like gangbusters for anybody wanting to let loose. Again Anthony’s harp playing is refrained and never going over-the-top into wild histrionics.
Clark loves them shuffles. So the “Swamp Dog Shuffle” is appropriately titled with the guitar players displaying hot chops with attitude. It could be the ultimate barn-burner on this cd as the whole band turns up the heat.
Final track “Hoochie Coochie Man” is a fitting finale. Ending a cd on a Muddy Waters number can be a positive thing and Clark does it proudly.
Taking on the role of a producer was a good move for Anthony. Rather than let these tunes be marred by over-production and unnecessary bells and whistle effects, he was able to create a live atmosphere as if this band was playing a blues jam on a Wednesday night. Raw truly sticks to a blueprint of authentic blues and certainly serves the purpose of making you catch boogie fever.
In an age where posers and wannabes want to clout you over the head with below par quality and brashness, Clark marches to his own drummer and is smart enough to realize that traditional blues can go a long way and still maintain a strong cult following for those who want to go to the clubs and have a good time.
With the right press juggernaut rolling behind him, Clark deserves a chance like anybody else to get booked into blues clubs across the states. No doubt a Friday or Saturday night audience would love this style of blues. Unless the man only does this as a part-time thing and has a steady day job. Maybe going on the road isn’t what he wants.
This journalist has never seen his name advertised. The greatest compliment that can be paid is remembering this name and catching this musician live at the nearest venue.
Review Gary Weeks is based in Marietta, GA.