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Bryan Clark
Gossip, Inspiration & Slander

Review By Steven Stone
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  "Who is this guy?" was my first thought after hearing a couple of minutes of Gossip, Inspiration & Slander. Bryan Clark received his first guitar at age nine and began playing in rock bands by high school. The summer before his senior year he attended a Berklee College of Music guitar camp and realized, "if I was going to do this (guitar) as a career, it was going to require some serious effort."

Clark proceeded to earn not only an undergraduate degree in music, but also a masters and doctorate at the University of Southern California. While working on his doctorate Clark discovered bluegrass music. Listening to the Ricky Skaggs' albums Ancient Tones and Bluegrass Rules Clark was, "blown away by the level of musicianship. There was so much akin to jazz with all the improvisation going on."  In 2002 Clark formed the trio Honeywagon and recorded three albums that covered popular music with acoustic bluegrass style arrangements. Sympathy for Bluegrass A Tribute to the Rolling Stones, Grass Stains (a tribute to Blink 182) and Green Day, Bluegrass (a tribute to Green Day) sold briskly with the last release spending over 90 weeks on Billboard's Bluegrass Top 15 chart. In 2006 Clark relocated to Nashville where he joined the faculty of Belmont University School of Music. In addition to his academic duties Clark works as a session player in Nashville and on TV and film projects including "America's Top Model" and "Project Runway."

Gossip, Inspiration & Slander is a self-produced double CD with one disc dedicated to acoustic music while the other is all electric. The acoustic disc features a veritable pantheon of Nashville's best including Casey Dreissen on fiddle, Chris Pandolfi on banjo, Matt Flinner on mandolin, Bryn Bright on stand-up bass, and Clark on all the guitar parts. It combines eight Clark originals with two well-worn instrumental standards, "Blackberry Blossom, and "Bill Cheatum." On these two war horses Clark demonstrates he has something new to say.  His acoustic guitar playing is awesome clean, precise, and musically inventive. To say he can keep up with the likes of Dreissen and Pandolfi is an understatement. The eight Clark originals display a facility with both lyrics and melodies that rivals any songwriter currently working in bluegrass. His song "Midnight Kisses" combines especially clever visual imagery with chorus that is more addictive than a boxful of chocolates.

On the electric CD Clark plays EVERY instrument except for rhythm guitar and bass on one cut. All the songs are also Clark originals, with two versions of his song "Angelyne". The acoustic CD frames it in a swing/hot-picking arrangement while the electric rendition shows how far he can push the song into R&B inflected country, complete with background singers and syncopated handclaps. Clark's singing and guitar playing easily rank with the top big-name country stars like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. Bryan Clark's simply a monster player, songwriter, singer, and a musical force of prodigious talent who deserves your immediate and complete attention.

 

 

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