“Damn Good Dog”
Willy Tea Taylor and the River Arkansas
By Steve Graham
Mike Clark didn’t start playing and writing music until he was 27 but the songs have been flowing freely ever since. His band, The River Arkansas, is due to release a live album and at least one new studio album this year. Meanwhile, the group popped out a surprise EP, “Damn Good Dog,” with California cowboy singer Willy Tea Taylor.
The four tracks were recorded in one day in San Francisco. The sound reflects the spontaneous collaboration, as well as the contributions of two accomplished songwriters representing two beautiful states.
Clark lives in Pueblo, but The River Arkansas has members all over Colorado and plays rootsy country-rock that reflects statewide influences.
The new EP opens with Taylor’s nearly five-minute “For Sam,” a touching tribute that incorporates a West Coast travelogue and some choice movie references, all the while sounding like a John Prine outtake.
The title track is a bouncy a capella campfire singalong about a lost canine. It could have been written 100 years ago, and it would fit nicely on a more stripped-down “O Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack.
“Lazy Third Eye” channels the minor chord death country sound of Denver legends 16 Horsepower, written by Willy Tea, and reflects Clark at the top of his game as he sings, “I can’t keep my eye on the prize and I’m realizing I’ve got a light that is dimming. I don’t feel like I’m winning. The only time I’m grinning is when I’m sinning.”
The closing track, “Leaf Change,” perfectly captures autumn in Colorado with the simple details of a classic country song. “I got a little bit of Rolling Stones / coming through on the radio/backcountry mountain road/fall’s coming and it’s getting cold.”
Thankfully, we have these songs to keep us warm.