Half Deaf Clatch: The Life & Death of AJ Rail

Half Deaf Clatch The Life & Death of AJ Rail.jpeg

Submitted by Iain Patience

First thing to say about this release is it's a truly remarkable overall package, full to bursting with spare, slippery acoustic fretwork on both guitar and banjo. The dozen tracks are all self-written with an evident understanding of the old-time, blues tradition and a touch of modernity that never swamps the originality.

Back in the day, of course, banjo was often the only instrument of choice available to share-cropping, blistered and bruised old bluesmen in the Deep South. Nowadays it tends to be overplayed, full of sparkling notes without a heartbeat or, seemingly on occasion, any real subtlety, feeling or passion. Clatch to his credit avoids this perilous pitfall with a notably spare, deceptively basic picking style reminiscent of the old claw-hammer pioneers from the turn of the twentieth century. The result is an album that has an unusually effective added ingredient mostly lacking in blues releases these days.

The songs themselves chart the story of a life lived with more than a touch of sin and scandal, debauchery, and defiance of the only certainty in life - old man Death itself.  If anything, this really is the Devil's Music, writ large. The Grim Reaper seems to be more than welcome here.

In addition, Clatch is always sure-footed with his fretwork and slide mastery. Pace and tempo both vary alongside lyrics that grab the attention to produce a near-effortless triumph. In many ways, 'The Life & Death of AJ Rail' could well prove to be the most original blues release of the year.

www.halfdeafclatch.com