Her self-titled CD (released July 9 on Rusty Knuckles) is so vivid you can smell the Marlboro Reds and overflowing ashtrays. You can practically hear the clinking of whiskey bottles, wine glasses, and the soothing buzz of a tattoo gun. Kara Clark has such ambiance you can see the velvet Waylon painting hanging in a corner of the recording studio. Underneath sits a Harley Cross Bones and a couple of hairy ne’er-do-well guitar pickers playing with a muzzleloader. On a shelf behind Clark’s vocal mic are a pair of lonely discombobulated testicles marinating in a Mason jar. They never saw it coming.
Hence, Kara Clark has balls. Intestinal fortitude. Sacked up, cocked and loaded.
West Virginia born, Nashville import Kara Clark packs a Mike Tyson wallop. She sounds like Guns ‘N’ Roses if Axl Rose had girl parts, wore a dress on occasion, and never left Indiana. Like Jessi Colter fronting Social Distortion or getting knuckle-punched right in the Adam’s apple. Clark has a crystalline glass cutter voice—long on heart and short on patience. There’s a catch in her voice, a hiccup that’s reminiscent of singer-songwriter Mark Curry (It’s Only Time, Let The Wretched Come Home). [Dear Reader: Come to Jesus moment. If you aren’t familiar with the neglected genius of Mark Curry, do yourself a solid and get right with God. Curry is such a monumental artist it makes his obscurity a criminal offense. Trust me. Google him.]
Kara Clark is a raw exposed nerve, a severed electrical wire shooting sparks in a thousand directions. “Kill Me”, with its primal piano and jarring chord structure, turns Nietzsche’s famous quote on its head: ‘I’m starting to believe what doesn’t make me stronger is gonna kill me.’ “Southern Hospitality” deals with corruption and racism below the Manson-Nixon line: Who do you want to be? Will D. Campbell or Bull Connor? Choose wisely, my friend. “Preacher’s Hands” is the age old story of evil cloaked as anything but. “The Devil
Don’t Cry” crawls like a dark and swampy Heart. “Whiskey And Cigarettes” (complete with Woody Guthrie introduction) is a tribute to finding what you love and watching it slowly kill you. In this case, it’s firewater and coffin nails. In “Relapse”, Clark explores the dark endorphin rush side of love: ‘Why would any woman want to take the kind of shit I get from you?/Because that’s what addicts do.’
The money shot, however, is “Memory Loss”, a gothic Appalachian piano murder ballad so breathtakingly vivid, you can see her standing there with a rifle in one hand and a whiskey bottle in the other, covered in blood. She even wails like a police siren. Clark’s attention to detail is—no exaggeration—on par with Springsteen. “Memory Loss” is a bone-chilling masterpiece.
Kara Clark is packed tight with murder, betrayal, confrontation, abuse, and remorse. But despite the ragged trip wire of emotion, I came away feeling like I’ve witnessed someone rising from the ashes of an unmitigated disaster. Like somebody found their wings.
Kara Clark has it all: roots to keep her grounded, wings to take her higher, and balls the size of car tires.
To purchase Kara Clark, see the usual suspects (amazon.com, iTunes, etc.)
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Michael Franklin is the Media & Reserves Specialist at Western Kentucky University’s Visual & Performing Arts Library (VPAL). Michael is also a professional musician and sound engineer. He is currently recording his 6th CD with his best friends Screenlast 6.0 and Audacity Sourceforge. He thinks Iggy Pop is the greatest singer in the history of music. If you disagree, you’re wrong. You better ask somebody.
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