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STEPHEN CLARK - The Lady Aurora 

STEPHEN CLARK - The Lady Aurora 
Private Label LAR01 

From the outset, this collection appears to inhabit the area of the concept album – you may be familiar with that abject term that normally hides artistic enlightenment and lofty ambition behind a concept or fulcrum around which the individual tracks hinge. The Lady Aurora, with its dimly lit cover art, suggests one such ethereal and otherworldly idea, with its cover art more redolent of the Blair Witch Project. But the concept album idea is clearly consigned to the dustbin when one finds that this is, for the most part, a collection of original pieces by guitarist Stephen Clark, using guitars such as a Martin 00-15M, a spruce-topped electro-acoustic Schertler SM and a 1979 vintage cedar and Rosewood Fylde Caliban - that’s the science bit concerning the featured models used.

The pieces are rendered completely solo. Each tune carries its own essence and presence and is thankfully devoid of multi-layering and studio excess. Bearing this in mind, the pieces work and create their own auras and atmospheres, especially on Daphne’s Song, Shimmering Light and The Lady Aurora itself. The playing is crisp and nimble, recalling people like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Gordon Giltrap etc. betimes. Musically, it’s accomplished, operating within the folky-acoustic instrumental arena where the results are a series of pleasing and personalised acoustic creations that are melodically sure and technically adept. That’s the package for the most part, and it would work perfectly as film music or a documentary backing vehicle, but on the closing sections he doffs a cap at the laidback vocal idiosyncrasy of Leon Redbone on a cover of JJ Cale’s Anyway The Wind Blows and the American traditional song, Cluck Old Hen, showing his jazz/blues roots. The addition of some traditional material, as in Cluck Old Hen and Little Sadie, and a slowed down treatment of Music For A Found Harmonium add some extra highlights for more general ears. The Lady Aurora is an ideal laid-back excursion into relaxed ethereal themes, perfectly suited to late-night listening.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 138 of The Living Tradition magazine