“Bryan Clark’s musical style does not belong to any one genre. Not only does he transcend genres from song to song on this album, Clark sometimes does the same thing within the same song – a nifty talent and difficult to pull off as seamlessly as he does.
Clark has a rich, smooth voice that punctuates his talents as a songwriter. Lyrics are well-penned, well-sung and often profound.”
- Roots Music Review
Combine master guitar skills with the songwriting acumen of a troubadour twice his age, crossing all music genres imagineable - one might begin to define the likes of Bryan Clark. An artist in every sense of the word, humble yet profoundly talented.
“Gossip, Inspiration, and Slander” is the much anticipated follow up to Bryan’s “Nebraska House”. This project features 2 CDs: an ELECTRIC CD, which features genre-bending Texas/Americana,and the ACOUSTIC CD which makes new strides in contemporary bluegrass. If you like Nickel Creek, Chris Thile, and Allison Krauss, you’ll really love the ACOUSTIC CD.
As an added bonus Bryan has redone some of the songs off the ELECTRIC CD on the ACOUSTIC CD. It sheds further light on his skills as an arranger (Take the burning and some serious re-working of the bluegrass standard “Blackberry Blossom” for just one example).
For you serious Bluegrass/ Newgrass fans, the Acoustic CD features an all-star cast:
Bryn Bright (Tony Rice, Peter Rowan, Patti Griffin) on Bass.
Chris Pandolfi (The Infamous Stringdusters) on banjo,
Matt Flinner (Todd Phillips, David Grier) on mandolin,
and Casey Dreissen (Bela Fleck, Tim O'Brien) on fiddle!
Guitar virtuoso Bryan Clark was hooked on sound long before he could execute the sophisticated arpeggios and modally tinged masterpieces captured on his newest solo effort, Gossip, Inspiration & Slander. “Airplanes, trains, lawnmowers: I was interested in anything you could listen to” says the perpetually tuned in Clark. He recalls growing up in a vividly aural environment where his earliest musical memories were songs from Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, and the Beach Boys, all streaming the from old ‘45s that his mother used to put on to sooth him to sleep as a child.
When his uncle gave him a guitar at age 9, Clark discovered that he could create wholly original noise from the six-strings, and from then on, Clark was in music’s grip. Growing up in Texas, the highly varied, roots-tinged, Red Dirt music etched a deep appreciation for the gut-honest, literary writing style that permeates his artistry today. Storytellers like Guy Clark, Townes Van Sandt, with their image-driven way with words, inspired Clark’s own songwriting pursuits.
At a record shop in the Dallas mall where he worked as a teen, Clark discovered Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, and XTC, whose punk-rock swagger and in-you-face emotionalism instantly connected with Clark. He built up a formidable collection of music—heroes to emulate, he says. Recalls Clark: “There was an interesting mix of music at the time, from reggae to punk to swing. We had singer/songwriter types like Steve Earle, guys like Bob wills, and then all the pop acts. I remember skateboarding off the highway and then walking over to hear a free Stevie Ray Vaughn concert in the park. There was never just one music format.”
Clark, a fiercely independent spirit, put together a group with some high school friends and “made tapes” as he calls his early recording efforts. But it wasn’t until the summer before his senior year that he realized his hobby could be more than just an after school garage band jam.
A golden opportunity to attend guitar camp at Berklee College of Music in Boston emerged. It was there that all the Clark was exposed to “shredder guitar” – the popular arena rock soloing technique that all the budding pickers were copying. “I was just a songwriter guy with a Strat[ocaster],” says Clark. “I didn’t have a Marshall and a Les Paul, or spike-out hair and spandex. But I loved the way the [campers] played. They could play some of my favorite records note for note, “says Clark. “By the time I left Berklee, I was really on fire. I knew that if I was going to do this as a career, it was going to require some serious effort.”
“Serious” for the college-bound Clark would means many ensuing years of advanced academic study. Supported by scholarships, Clark not only earned his undergraduate degree, but also earned a masters and a doctorate that took him from University of Southern California (USC) to University on Texas and back to USC. His craftsmanship was burgeoning, as he immersed himself in jazz, classical composition, and avant-garde electro-acoustic work.
While studying jazz guitar at USC in Los Angeles, Clark experienced a major musical epiphany: Ricky Skaggs. It was his first exposure to bluegrass music, and the high lonesome sound rocked the foundation of Clark’s playing. “When I heard his records Ancient Tones and Bluegrass Rules, I was totally blown away by the level of musicianship. There was so much akin to jazz with all the improvisation going on,” he says.
Self-starter Clark realized that the only way to understand bluegrass was to dive in. “There wasn’t a bluegrass jam that you could go to [in LA],” Clark remembers. So, with a couple of acoustically-minded buddies, Clark formed his own trio, Honeywagon, in 2002. Honeywagon found favor with a boutique label in Orange County and recorded three highly-acclaimed albums that covered popular rock music via stripped down arrangements: Sympathy for Bluegrass – a Tribute to the Rolling Stones, Grass Stains (a tribute to Blink 182), and Green Day, Blue Grass (a tribute to Green Day), which spent over 90 weeks in Billboard’s Bluegrass Top 15 chart, sold over 50,000 copies and garnered the number six position on Billboard’s Bluegrass sales chart in 2006.
Eventually tiring of the concrete gridlock and pace of life in L.A., Clark relocated to
Nashville in 2006. From his Music city post, he now serves as an in-demand session player and
adjunct faculty member at Belmont University School of Music where he teaches jazz harmony,
composition, history of American song and arranging.
Never one to wait on a record deal to befall him, Clark has been quietly fashioning some
of the most progressive, genre-bending music to emerge from Music City. With five solo
recordings behind him, he has performed with Bonnie Raitt, Lisa Loeb, Bird York, jazz greats
Larry Carlton, Scott Henderson, and garnered songwriting accolades from the International
Billboard and John Lennon Songwriting contests. His film and TV credits include “America’s
Next Top Model,” “Project Runway,” and placements on VH1, FOX, ESPN and Oxygen
networks among others. Clark is self-contained as a guitarist, songwriter, singer and producer
from the helm of his home studio.
GOSSIP, INSPIRATION & SLANDER, released through Clark’s label Rainfeather
Records, is his best work to date. The double-disc (one acoustic CD, one electric CD) showcases
Clark’s versatility and pays homage to his broad range of influences, from Stravinsky to Coltrane
to Monroe. “There are two sides of me that are being represented here, and I wanted to give
listeners a choice so they could see how the songs evolved. They can compare and contrast,” he
says. It’s how he enjoys digesting his favorite music, after all, and he hopes to offer an alternative
to the limited commercial releases currently on shelves.
This project is comprised of songs with real and often profound weight: “I think you have
a tremendous amount of responsibility as an artist,” says Clark. “To me, that’s what drives me to
do what I do. All the songs here tell stories, and they have some lesson to draw about the human
The Acoustic CD (Disc One) features songs penned by Clark, who drew inspiration from
Shakespeare, world history and his own personal diaries. For this disc, he hand selected players
with an educated background in jazz. Fiddler Casey Dreissen (Bela Fleck, Tim O'Brien), banjo
player Chris Pandolfi (Infamous Stringdusters), mandolin player Matt Flinner (Todd Phillips,
David Grier) and acoustic bassist Bryn Bright (Tony Rice, Peter Rowan) among others,
contributed unique harmonic contours that transcend bedrock “bluegrass” arrangements. “I
wanted to bring bluegrass out of that preservation mentality and to bring variation to the genre,”
Clark says. And while he reached back in time with the addition two traditional flat-picking
tunes “Blackberry Blossom” and “Bill Cheatum,” Clark had his reasons: “I knew they were songs
that I could contribute something new to,” he states.
The Electric CD (Disc Two) is equally as innovative and showcases Clark’s deep abilities
as a player (playing all the instruments), engineer, and producer. Sharing three tunes in common
with the acoustic CD, it opens with the buoyant “Angelyne,” which smolders with the addition of
a Motown rhythm section and throwback-era background vocals. Imbued with a more intricate
production, Clark takes liberties with his smooth tenor, showcasing a tragically soulful side on the
bluesy “Down In Flames” and his twangy Texas Swing heritage on the swingin’ “Bumper to
Bumper” (complete with an impressive falsetto). Two of the disc’s standouts, “Midnight Kisses”
and “Nights Like These” could fit squarely in contemporary country-pop play lists, if the politics
weren’t so precarious.
But Clark wasn’t trying to satisfy any commercial sensibilities with GOSSIP,
INSPIRATION & SLANDER. This long-time student of Buddhism says that the music he makes
has to resonate with him first, before it ever reaches the listener’s ear. Says Clark: “It’s like that
Delphic oracle, ‘Know thyself.’ That’s what I’m trying to do.” Clark’s self reflection and
professional discipline has clearly paid off, if GOSSIP, INSPIRATION & SLANDER is any
evidence. “Musically, I like everything, and I want to be able to do these kinds of records when
the inspiration hits,” he says. “I’ve been doing it this way from day one. You can’t put a price on
that kind of freedom.”