Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fast Eddie Clarke featuring Bill Sharpe – Make My Day Back to Blues

What if...   
Please note this is a work of fiction – well the review is 100% real....

It's Memorial Day  - an American holiday when we honor the men and women who fought for our nation.  I live two blocks from the beach so this signals the beginning of tourist season and all the local stores raising their prices on weekends. 

    Usually I try to get away from the neighborhood on days like this as I have an allergy to unruly mobs.  So I hopped on the subway which was empty going away from the beach and got off at a random station on the Manhattan side of the bridge.

    Once outside of the air-conditioned comfort my $2.50 bought, I was smacked in the face by a wall of heat and humidity.  My glasses started fogging up and my perfectly ironed hair started drooping. I knew my make up would start to melt next and I would look like a sad panda – I had to get indoors. 
    “Happy hour!” An angelic voice called from down the street, “Half price well-drinks!  Live blues! No cover!”
    Cheap alcohol? I made my way towards the voice, “We've got the air-conditioner cranked, miss,” A tall, dredlocked  white boy in an NYU shirt assured me, “Come on in, live blues...”

    At that point I wouldn't care if there were two asthmatic octogenarians playing polka. I needed to cool down and I needed liquor.

    I went up to the bar and ordered a screwdriver, positioning  my face in front of the air conditioning vent.  There was a jukebox playing some blues in the corner and I smirked to myself thinking they had some sense of humor to say that was “live blues”.

    Suddenly, the house music stopped and I heard a raspy voice an nonce the live music was about to start.  I turned around in my stool to face the makeshift stage.  There were a bunch of guys who were easily in their 50's – including a keyboard player squeezed into the corner.  In the center of the stage, with shoulder length, thinning grey hair and piercing green eyes that had perhaps seen too much, was the “bandleader”.  He had a wood-grain-finish Fender Stratocaster strapped to his chest, and approached the Mike, “Thank you all for coming out this afternoon.  I'm Fast Eddie Clarke, and this is Make My Day – Back to Blues”.

    The drummer counted out to three and the band kicked into an uptempo track called “Nothing Left”  Eddie sang about wandering the streets alone, making peace with not having to answer to anyone, continuing his “quest” alone.  This was a theme that ran through all the songs.

    The playing was top notch and obviously these guys had been around for awhile.  Eddie's solo's were all full of heart and you can tell he was enjoying what he was doing.  He introduced the keyboard player as his “partner in crime”, Bill Sharpe, and said he was previously in a band called Shakatak.

    On the next song, “Mountains to the Sea” Eddie sings that “ I missed my chance and let everything slip away...” Another theme that runs thorough all the songs, about missed opportunities.  Here was a man that obviously was oozing with talent, but perhaps decades of bad decisions and poor life choices have lead him  down the path to where  he was now.  What better reason to sing the blues?  Even though his vocals weren't that strong, you could hear the real-ness, that he lived what he was singing. 

    “This is the title track to our new album,” Eddie announced, “Make my day” “Everybody wants to see me fall down and break my head...” Eddie sang, his fingers moving effortlessly on the fretboard of his war-battered old Strat.  Female backing singers accompanied him in “doo-wop” style which was a nice touch. 

    Eddie announced the band would be taking a short break and would come back in ten minutes to play the rest of their new CD.  I went to the ladies room to freshen up and when I came back to my stool I noticed a fresh drink and a can of Special Brew in my spot.  “From the gentleman on the guitar,” The bartender told me. 

    Eddie walked past me on his way back to the stage and winked.  They picked up with the next song, “Heavy Load” which had a really heavy riff and it wouldn't be out of place (Sped up a tad) on an album by another band he may have been a member of... Thiswas my favorite of all the tracks they had played so far.  The riff will be stuck in my head for quite some time.  The next track was “Fast Train” and was another uptempo boogie number. 

    From “Fast Train” to “Walking too Slow”. on words?  Again lyrics about regret , “Maybe I shouldn't have done that yesterday...”

    After the next track, “Haven't got the time”, they launched into an instrumental and Eddie really got to let loose.  There was fire in his playing, reminiscent of the peak era of Motorhead. 

    The next track, “My new life” lyrically was still about the mistakes of his past, but hints that there is something new and positive in his life that keeps him going.  “I've got to find a piece of something that makes me happy and warm inside”

    I have to note that by this point Eddie's voice didn't seem that odd or out of place, it totally fit in with the music.  Even though he's not a “singer” - he had to do the vocals on this. It was his life, it seemed.

    “This is our last song this afternoon, hope you enjoy it, it's called “Ethereal Blue”, thank you all for coming out! If you like what you've heard, please buy my new album, “Fast Eddie Clarke featuring Bill Sharpe – Make My Day Back to Blues available on Secret Records”.  It was only Eddie and Bill left on the stage as they jammed to a pretty, melancholy instrumental.  I downed my screwdriver and put the can of Special Brew in my purse -it would come in handy on the subway ride home. 

    When they finished, a bunch of hipsters with ironic t-shirts and too-big eyeglasses started making the way to the stage carrying their instruments, signaling a changing of the guard.  As Eddie unplugged his old Strat and started packing out, I went over to him to thank him for the drinks.

    “Did you really like it?” He asked, genuinely concerned, “I know it's miles away from Fastway and Motorhead, but I just want to play my guitar,”
    “I like it because it's you, and it's honest,”
    “I was always honest with my music,” he said, “I just wish I hadn't...well...too late for regrets.  I'm doing what I like now, I'm too old to be miserable,” He laughed a little.
    I shook his hand and kissed him on the cheek, “I'm glad you're happy, that's all a fan can ask for.”  I took a few steps towards the door, then turned around and said, “and I'm glad you're still here to play your guitar, it was pretty dicey there for awhile...”

    He smiled at me and nodded, then started rolling up cords and packing his gear away.

    I waved to the bartender, then went out into the summer street.  The sun was just setting and I meandered down to the subway and clutched my CD copy of Fast Eddie Clarke's new CD.

Big Thank you to Helena at Secret Records for sending me a copy of this CD for review!

Buy the new Fast Eddie Clarke album here:


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