2019 – Rip Cat Records
By Phillip Smith; May 19, 2019
There’s a genuine authenticity to the blues music of California singer/harmonica player John Clifton. Whether playing one of his own terrific original songs, or tearing through one of his amazing covers, he blankets his music on In the Middle of Nowhere with a warm nostalgic vibe. His tight-as-hell band consists of guitarist Scott Abeyta, bassist Jake Finney, drummer/percussionist Edward Fritz, and pianist Bartek Szopinski.
Clifton delivers a tasty dose of ripping harp on the instrumental original “Cool Spot in Hell”, while Szopinski hammers out an exquisite piano performance. Another great original is “Four Years Ago”. This instant classic, about being in the doghouse, is an undeniable treat. “Ain’t Spending No More Money” is another hot original, that boasts more searing blues. It makes me realize just how much I enjoy the cohesiveness of this band. They really gel.
I love the smoking guitar doled out by Abeyta on the cover of Charley Jordon’s 1931 recording “Keep it Clean”. Their take on Junior Wells’ “So Tired (I Could Cry)” simmers quite nicely. Clifton smoothly sings this with a suave delivery. For the album closer, they delightfully nail down a rollicking version of Merle Haggard’s “Honky Tonk Night Time Man”. It really cooks.
In the Middle of Nowhere is as solid a blues album as one can be. It really made an impression on me.
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