ANTIC CLAY: Hilarious Death Blues (2007)
"Hilarious Death Blues is a dark, smoldering journey into isolated Americana. It's country music that's silently aware of the impending apocalypse, and doesn't pine over lost love and and the daily grind of an oppressive job. It's a low and lonesome sound that holds a mirror to existential angst and rages against entropy, ennui, murk and miasma with flourishing, poetic beauty."
"Former MYSSOURI frontman Michael Bradley has regained his sight and is now going under the name Antic Clay. Debuting with a double-disc dose of lonesome desert laments cheerily titled HILARIOUS DEATH BLUES, Bradley/Clay wanders a similar forlorn and spooked landscape as Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan, Simon Bonney and other blues-obsessed artsy white guys. Dark, minimal and restrained, two full discs of this approach proves to be a chore at one sitting, but overall this is chillingly haunting stuff, and a welcome direction for Bradley."
--Jeff Clark, STOMP AND STAMMER
ANTIC CLAY AND HIS BRUISED DUSTY by BlackBird Merle Leonce Bone
"Let yourself get taken in by the dark times emerging from this virile and exiled dumper, vessel of all the ancient echoes. The funerary heart for decadent Mormon. Antic Clay is not only about a more electrification prone to tension even if the man does cast his painful strength and his discreet vision and his wild poet constitution in the events. With Antic Clay, it is not only about rooting oneself in a rotten compost, reluctant to sustain a tree with hardly any ancestry.
No, as a matter of fact, beauty drags itself, as it happens, from something more foreign to traditions, infinitely more hidden.
From Antic’s voice, this splendid and rough thing, this ambivalence of cold and hot timbre you would say, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
From the brave and brotherly clap hands’ running, and to this can be added the tangle of a harmonica, which blades have been replaced by scraps of biting winds, combined with guitar-textures, knocking, eager for glissando dirt, so far and so close, breath of whiskey in the inside. The whitened bones of the horse’s carcass as primal harp, under the best of circumstances accompanying the bruised dusty yet glamorous murmurs of the death-a-billy cantor from an old incandescent Myssouri. Reverend Antic Clay is this curse of rebellious god, resisting song-writing, constantly swaying between hope and destruction, between, tabula rasa, erasing it all and the stoic and profound renunciation.
Don’t resist, get yourself emotionally assaulted by his outburst of urban funeral orations and rural incantations, by this viscous and irrevocable dirge when it recalls, in that furious and stately way, the sudden deaths with the broken hearts unable to be soothed, the ancestral and deep fears, the tears when it’s time for smoke in campfires."
--Manuel Aubert a.k.a. BlackBird Merle Leonce Bone, Tours, France, Friday, June 8th. 2007.
(Translation: Paula Antunes)
Michael Bradley (aka Antic Clay) started the southern-gothic band MYSSOURI in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. Drawing influences from Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, The Doors, 16 Horsepower and Joy Division, the band burned a dark and bright scar on the Georgia scene, playing myriad shows, festivals and conferences, including CMJ twice, and opening for well-known acts such as The Damned, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Concrete Blonde, Reverend Horton Heat, Detroit Cobras, The Angels Of Light, The Gunga Din, Waco Brothers and more. But they never were able to tour, and perhaps because of that the fire burned out after 7 years and 3 records. Myssouri disbanded in 2003. Bradley has continued on, playing stripped-down shows with his acoustic guitar and harmonica, and the artistic direction hinted at when he had Myssouri covering songs by the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Lee Hazlewood (and of course Johnny Cash) has become his clear and chosen path.
He adopted the name Antic Clay and traveled to a friend's studio in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. From these sessions comes the audacious double-cd debut "Hilarious Death Blues", a title inspired, like the pseudonym Antic Clay, by the dark westerns of reknowned American novelist Cormac McCarthy. Bradley/Clay sang, wrote and played most everything on the album, which has a feeling about it both archaic and modern, heavy on the reverb and sparse on the instrumentation like old Sun Studios recordings, very much inspired by late night lost highway AM radio, vintage country songs and the mythology of the Old West, although the lyrical content is far too dark and cynical to make it on the Grand Ole Opry. HDB puts you in an old dark wooden room with only a burlap curtain against the night wind, and a guttering tallow candle's incandescent dance across your old bottle of bourbon. It is best listened to loud. And alone.
There are bluesy dirges, somber western ballads, dissonant foot-stompers, tavern songs and even an unlikely sea shanty. The lone cover, "Decades" by Joy Division, is barely recognizable as the 'post-punk' classic. It is stripped to the root with guitar, harmonica, voice and violin, and made all the more powerful for it.
HILARIOUS DEATH BLUES is 3+ years in the making, and is more of a document of a period of time in a writer's life than a statement of intent. Indeed, Bradley's new side-project of vintage country covers "SINNERS AND SONGRIDERS" may reveal much about the future path for Antic Clay, strongly hinted at in the lonesome country swagger of the song "Non-Prophet Blues" (from album B, "The Horseless Rider).
Dark night in Nashville, here we come.