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ALBUM REVIEW

Mike Clifford
BACKROADS IN BARE FEET
©2010 Late Bloom Records
Review by Lucky Boyd
Co-Founder, MyTexasMusic.com 

Mike Clifford’s 2010 release is a essentially a story of three Mikes.  There’s the artistic Mike on “You Should Have Told Me” in which Clifford uses stylish arrangements to cross over into places he’s not usually seen.  The song has country elements and a Latin feel using instrumentation you won’t find on the bulk of Clifford’s work.  There’s the troubadour Mike on “Famous,” and “Little Baby Girl” in which Clifford showcases two sides of his songwriting prowess.  On “Famous,” Clifford proves he can create a story within meter that, even if you’re expecting the storyline, can give you enough diversion to keep interest in an otherwise bland one-four-five talker.  Clifford takes a behind-the-scenes look at an age old quagmire of the music business – how to get famous.  You’ll hear him dance close to the jest of Coe’s “The Ride” and even pays homage with a familiar musical interlude from the much-covered hit.  Destined to be a crowd favorite, the track could garner some airplay if the jocks can overlook the five minute issue.  When “Little Baby Girl” played for the first time, I had to check my player to see if I had accidentally loaded a john Arthur martinez song.  By the chorus I knew it was Clifford, but his style and delivery was mindful of jAm and that’s a level of songwriting you don't rise to overnight.  I believe Clifford can hold his own next to jAm in the songwriting category.  It might be a while before he pens as many tunes as jAm, but he can already hold his own with respect to imagery and passion.  That’s half the battle of songwriting.  There’s the performer Mike on the title track and “West Texas Sun.”  Listen closely and you’ll hear Clifford morph from one track to another, easing his way in and out of each distinct persona, bringing the one most suited for the track.  This is not a totally themed record, but many of the songs tie to the title and help fuel the laid back feel of the project.  There aren’t any rock anthems on this offering and Clifford is not trying to show you that he can play jazz, blues, and hip hop on the same record.  I truly believe Clifford has hit a home run with this release.  He has at least three songs that will make outstanding radio releases, and three good follow-ups.  The promise of airplay from six of eleven cuts is something every artist should aspire to.  Clifford, with the release of his fourth album, has mastered the formula.  If a listener is a new Clifford fan, they’ll be well off to purchase all the former material as well so that the full Mike Clifford can be experienced.  Clifford matures with each album, and has made his mark on Texas music.  This is the latest installment of a stellar career and the success of this disc will likely inspire Clifford to start recording again right away.  Advice to Mike:  let it simmer just a bit, there’s a lot of mileage to be had from this one.  Fellow MTM member, Academy member, and TMA nominee Brennen Leigh appears on the record.  The list of pickers is first rate and the production is masterful.  I don’t usually rank records, but this one would get my highest rating if I did.  Clifford stays on genre, remains true to his art, and gives fans a reprise of familiar sounds and a steady diet of uncharted territory.  That’s what superstars do.  Good work from all three Mikes.
 

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