Fred Clark,
Living in Dakin's Neighborhood
(Rockout/Surfmonk, 2000)

Featuring 13 original songs written or co-written by Fred Clark, Living in Dakin's Neighborhood marks Clark's second foray into the recording world. While his first release, Just Another Day, was classified as Americana/alternative country, the new album has evolved into more of a folk-rock sound.

Most of the songs on this album are upbeat; social commentary is evident in some places, but most of it is pretty light-spirited. The first song, "Unrequited Love," is one of those songs whose subject calls to mind self-pity and wallowing, yet Clark turns it into an infectious pop gem that brings to mind Buddy Holly or the Beatles. One of my favorites on the album is "The Ballad of Mr. O'Donnell's Daughter"; featuring a strong Celtic influence, the song (unintentionally, perhaps) made me laugh out loud at Clark's lyrics. And that's the kind of spirit that is evident on this album. This same mood permeates "Saga of the Coffee House Blues," which stands out a fine example of Clark's sense of humor and observation skills.

Clark's lyrics are well-written, although they lack the "poetry" that I'm usually drawn to. However, combined with the bouncy musical arrangements, I found myself enjoying the entire album. Clark notes that the album started out as acoustic duo album, but he filled it out with a full band at the urging of his producer. Good choice on Clark's part, as these songs lack the lyrical intensity that a more simple arrangement would need. The album features Clark on lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitars; Stephen Koritta on guitar, bass and organ; Larry O'Neal on mandolin, bouzouki, dulcimer and harmonica; Mike Garrett on drums/percussion; Brian McClelland and Patti Clark on backing vocals; Karl Dodson on electric guitar; and Jim Callahan on organ. These musicians play together well, keeping up with the spirit and playfulness of many of Clark's tunes.

Clark makes special mention of the title of the album. Dakin Williams, brother to famous playwright Tennessee, lives in Clark's hometown; the title is a tribute to the interesting people who come out of small places.

Living in Dakin's Neighborhood is a fun listen. Although honesty dictates that I admit that I've heard better voices and deeper lyrics, I was caught up in Clark's infectious spirit, which is something that I've always appreciated. It's evident that Clark enjoys what he's doing, and that enjoyment is translated to his listeners.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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