In The Middle Of Nowhere
Rip Cat Records
Published August 2019
Blues Music Magazine
If intensity was the primary stroke by which blues releases were judged, this fine new recording, In The Middle Of Nowhere, by veteran musician John Clifton would be in the running for indie-blues/roots album of the year.
Formerly lead-vocalist and harmonica player for one of the West Coast’s premier live groups, “The Mofo Party Band” out of Fresno, California, Clifton here continues to satisfy as a solo artist.
His electric, and very high-energy shows have delighted U.S. and European audiences since the late 80s, and his experience and obvious confidence as a band-leader, harmonicist, singer, and songwriter is on full display here.
His musical influences, from West Coast to Chicago Blues can be heard throughout. There’s also a bit of a throwback 50’s rock and roll sound to his work as well.
This is Clifton’s third release on the Rip Cat Records Label and five of the eleven tracks on the CD were written or co-written by him. The other cuts are not-oft heard, and infinitely well-chosen for his vocals and harmonica-chops.
“If It Ain’t Me” is a soloists delight, featuring Polish keyboardist Bartek Szopinski strong work along with Clifton’s signature hard-breathing, harp theatrics at song’s end.
Hicks and West’s “I’m Leaving You Baby” vocals owe plenty to The Wolf, and that’s a good thing. Clifton’s hard delivered singing tells the story of a man, who’s maybe on the move from his cheatin’ woman.
The title track is Clifton’s own and relates the singer’s need to move out of the place he’s in toward somewhere, anywhere but where he is. A fine yet short solo by guitarist Scott Abeyta (owner of Rip Cat) stands out along with the expressive bandleader’s fine harp playing.
The wonderfully-titled instrumental “Cool Spot in Hell” is both sultry and quite lovely in its often plaintive cry, while “Keep It Clean” will fill your dance-floor up at your next blues bash.
Clifton takes his hand as dobro player on his own, “Junkie Woman Blues” a very pleasurable 30’s style blues, while the mid-tempo shuffle, “Poor Boy” covers The Wolf’s composition with again, nice playing by the band all-around.
The Blues is alive and well in Central California and beyond if John Clifton can have his say in song. He is worth much more than a quick listen. He’s a dedicated blues artist whose work just pummels you with that intensity along with straight-up and solid harmonica power.