Indiana Music: Dane Clark and Larry Crane team for an Americana Review

daneclarkOriginally written for NUVO – published December 19, 2012

As the engine the makes John Mellencamp’s band rumble, Dane Clark sits behind a drum kit, driving the roots-rock sound. With his own band and album, he stands squarely in front, with a guitar and directing his own take on the heartland rock sound.

Clark and his band will team with another Indiana rock and roller, as they are joined by Larry Crane’s band for a night of heartland rock on December 20 at the Bluebird in Bloomington.

“The seeds of the idea for this show came from a live acoustic show we did in the WTTS Sun King studio last summer with Larry and Jennie Devoe,” Clark says. “I’ve been thinking about doing an Americana Review-style show, and this will be a good way to start.

“We will run the show with both bands set up to save time, and I will do a couple songs [and] he will do a couple songs,” he says. We’ll sit in with each other’s band. We will do our own music, and so will he, and throw a few Mellencamp chestnuts in their too.”

New sounds, unexpectedly made

“I think I did intend to go deeper into the Americana steel guitar and dobro sound,” Clark says, as we talk about his new album. “Records don’t ever turn into the one you envision as you go through the process.”

daneclark_albumThat said, Clark’s Songs from the Hard Road resonates with splashes of radio country and Mellencamp-inspired Lonesome Jubilee porch sounds. It’s a record that solidly based in the sound of Middle America.

“You’ve got to be realistic in the music business,” Clark says. “Nobody buys music anymore. You write songs so you can sing, get a band and go out and play. I love music. I have a great band that can pull it off.

He knows even the big guys don’t have the same power.

“One has to realize the state of the music business in 2012. Bruce (Springsteen) can put out a record, and it doesn’t sell like it did 20 years ago. What we make is modern music for adults. I hope people find a song that radiates – a lyric with a spark of truth.”

daneclark2Clark, who started playing piano when he was very young before moving to guitar and drums, realized that he “wasn’t going to be Jimmy {age or Elton John” but that he “could play like Keith Moon and John Bonham.”

“A drummer in a live setting is steering the ship. He’s the engine. With my band, I trust my drummer to be that engine.”

“I hope we can crack a little bigger audience,” Clark says. “It’s more about a few degrees of success – working to get to the next level.”

Reconnections

One of the side trips Clark has taken with the record is a reconnection with the legendary late 1960s rock band Moby Grape. After being enthralled by the band’s debut album (“It was life changing for me,” he says) Clark had a chance – many years later – to meet guitarist Jerry Miller and do some recording and touring with the group.

Clark connected with Miller when he used his Mellencamp pass to get backstage at Pine Knob in Detroit in 2007 for a ’60s-based Summer of Love show. It has led to the new album’s closing track “Over It” featuring the band – a chance for Dane to finally get the group together for an album track.

“Anything bad that could have happened to the band, did,” Clark says, of their history. “They only got the name back two years ago. There have been a lot of mishaps, but it was a great thing; five guys, and all five wrote and all five could sing. They were overloaded with talent.

It’s a relationship to a band that Clark is especially proud of, and you can hear the warmth in his voice when he talks about the San Francisco rockers.

Sounds of home

“I don’t know if there is an Indiana sound,” Clark says, when I ask him if there is such a thing. Though I believe there is, I still want to hear what someone closer to the heartbeat has to say about it.

“Rock music doesn’t really exist as we knew it,” Clark says. “What happened with rock is it became country music: Bob Seger with a fiddle. When John started using a fiddle in the ’80s, and that would be country music now. My roots are Midwest influences. Anyone my age is influenced by The Stones, Dylan, Cash and Haggard.”

“I want my record to catch on with people who think country radio is too cheesy for their tastes,” he says. “I wanted to make a record that isn’t appealing to the lowest common denominator.”

With these shows this month, Clark – and the gutsy Telecaster-driven rock of Crane – will both get their chance to find that ground that exists between country and rock; a place both artists feel comfortable.

December 20
The Bluebird
Bloomington, Indiana
8:00pm
216 North Walnut Street (812) 336-3984.

Album Review: Dane Clark – “Postcards from the Hard Road”

Dane Clark
Postcards From the Hard Road
Self-released

Make no mistake, there is a sound of Indiana. A Mellencamp-influenced sound, and any Hoosier musician around long enough to have played during 1980s heartland rock heydey must find the stuff thick in their veins.

For Dane Clark, who has worked as John Mellencamp‘s drummer for the past 16 years, his new album Postcards from the Hard Road brings together many branches from that Indiana heartland rock tree, through direct ties to Mellencamp (current bandmembers), or by way of Larry Crane, John’s guitar player throughout the 1980s. Twenty years ago, Clark played drums in Crane’s band when the guitar player first split with his former boss.

When Jennie DeVoe joins in on “I Wouldn’t Be Me Without U,” it is the magic of two seasoned Americana performers having fun. “Sweet Temptation ” cuts through with lyrics about opportunities to stray, matched to a blues-rock sound. “Waylon and Willie” is a Steve Earle/Joe Ely redux. The mid-tempo “Down in the Goldmine” – – with Clark working on the downbeat, beautifully dragging the snare just behind the vocals – recreates the Waylon vibe. Continue reading “Album Review: Dane Clark – “Postcards from the Hard Road””

Best of Indiana: Roots-Rock in 2010

At Rockforward, we live right in the middle of Indiana,  and fan our reach outward from Indianapolis.  Here’s the best of what we heard this year from (mostly) Hoosier roots-rock artists.

2010 Local Roots Rock/Americana Album of the Year
Cara Jean Wahlers/”Goodnight Charlotte”How did this quiet, intelligent, duet-like release from an acoustic guitar player and cello player get to the top of my roots-rock/Americana list full of worthy candidates?  Especially coming from a guy (me) who unabashedly enjoys the gritty side of loud guitars, drums and a sweet Hammond B-3?  It happened because this is a deserving place for “Goodnight Charlotte”, as Wahlers’ and Grover Parido’s cello quietly cuts into your heart with hauntingly beautiful music and lyrics that evoke black and white movies. Continue reading “Best of Indiana: Roots-Rock in 2010”

Larry Crane Back in Indiana; Headlines Saturday’s Beech Grove Fall Festival

When we talked to former Mellencamp guitarist Larry Crane this summer (for an interview in Indianapolis’ NUVO) , he mentioned two things: the old Mellencamp band may be getting back together to record, and that he would be in Indiana later in the summer for a show. Well, it is now the final weekend of summer, and as promised, Crane has returned. He brings his heartland rock and roll to the stage at the Beech Grove Fall Festival Saturday night.

Crane was in Bloomington in June for an album release show at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre, marking the Indiana debut for Tropical Depression, an album that sound familiar to those who kept up with him as he was banging around the clubs and theatres with his band in the early and mid 90’s, after his spilt from Mellencamp.

Now based in Florida, Crane’s quotes in the story garnered enough attention that Mellencamp’s management released a statement saying John was going to be busy with his No Better Than This album, and had no other plans. With the success of that album ( #1 for the fifth consecutive week on the Americana charts last week), he has his own tour lined up through the fall, including dates in Fort Wayne, South Bend, two shows in Indy, with a tour-opening two night stand at IU’s Memorial Auditorium on October 29 and 30. He’s garnering terrific press with the new record, and was was honored at Nashville’s Americana Music Awards last week and was given their Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting.

But that note from management never really said the musicians from John’s big pop/rock 80’s heydey (Kenny Aronoff, Toby Myers and Crane) wouldn’t be reuniting – just that there were no “plans”. I’d like to hear the old band again, so I take the statement as a positive sign.

Meantime, Larry and his band hit the stage (located at 8th and Main) with romping guitar and drums Midwest rock and roll at 9pm Saturday night in downtown Beech Grove. Added bonus: Indy’s Healing Sixes crank up their amps just before Crane, with a set from 7-8:30pm.

website/stage info

Four for the 4th: Great Independence Day rock tunes

Here’s four tunes – from obscure to almost legendary – for the July 4th holiday: The almost essential, completely incomplete list of Independence Day songs.

Play them loud at a party. All the right people will get it, and think you are the best host ever. Continue reading “Four for the 4th: Great Independence Day rock tunes”