Artist Spotlight: Mike McClure (part 3)

Posted by Payton | Posted in album review, artist spotlight | Posted on 06-05-2008

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Part 1 ~ Part 2

The time between Camelot Falling and Mike’s McClure’s next album, Foam, (nearly 2 years) was time well spent. Now very comfortable at the production reins and with no label to answer to, Mike was able to take his time and carefully piece together a new record.

Feeling the need to spend more time with his wife and two daughters, he converted a room of his home in Ada, OK into a personal studio. ‘The Library’, as he calls it, is a place where Mike can go to goof off (being an avid reader of his rambles, i know he does this a lot), get away, or simply lay down some vocal tracks, guitar licks, or pieces of ideas for songs. He began to spend less time at the Dirtybird Recording studios and devised a plan for sending his recordings electronically to other folks, having them tweaked, and getting them back. One of these ‘other folks’ was legendary engineer Joe Hardy. Mike began sending Joe his vocal tracks and they would come back perfected with slight effects that seemed to only accentuate Mike’s style.

The bulk of Foam, however, was recorded in Houston, TX at The Foam Room – Billy Gibbons’ (ZZ Top) famed recording studio. Mike, being a sucker for 80’s rock, was just a little excited to be working in such a storied studio. This excitement translated into inspiration that came through on the record. Foam is highlighted by some of the finest guitar work Mike has a ever put together – with just a touch of that classic ZZ Top swagger.

November 2006

mp3: Mike McClure Band – I Know
mp3: Mike McClure Band – Saints In The Twilight
mp3: Mike McClure Band – Belly of the Beast

Foam is 10 tracks of superb production. If the beginnings or ends of some of the songs sound funny, that’s because the CD rolls continuously throughout without track breaks. I Know is track 1 and Saints is track 2, so check ‘em out back to back. Mike resurrected yet another Great Divide song here with Floods. Although released back in 2000, it’s one of Mike’s best writing achievements to date. Personally, i prefer the theatrical feel of the original recording of the song – it has a long intro of sounds of rain that Mike recalls recording into a tape player while standing on the porch of the Will Rogers Theatre where the band’s Afterglow was recorded.

The album is the first to feature the new three piece MMB – Mike and drummer Eric Hanson dropped their lead guitarist (Mike took over the duties) and hired a new bass player. Tom Skinner had been milling around the Red Dirt scene since its inception. He and Mike met at ‘The Farm’ – an old farmhouse that served as a haven for many Oklahoma songwriters, young and old. Skinner penned the song Used To Be (recorded by The Great Divide) that has become the unofficial anthem of Red Dirt music. His impeccable timing and upper-range tenor perfectly complement Mike’s fine-grained gravel voice.

May 2008

mp3: Mike McClure Band – Like An Idiot
mp3: Mike McClure Band – The Eagle and the Crow

Mike’s most recent album, did7 (don’t ask me what it means….), was just released on May 6. i feel like, on this one, Mike held back on the Rock N Roll, and put together a record with impeccable writing. Sometimes the lines are simple, but sometimes simple works just fine.

“guess i should start at the top/seems like a logical place.”
“let me dance like an idiot for you/you laugh, you laugh/yeah you always do.”

While preparing for this record, doctors found a tumor in Mike’s daughter Marleigh. Possibly due to Mike’s heavy spiritual side, the tumor was removed and all is well. The constant hopeful demeanor she maintained throughout the ordeal is expressed in Little Sister Sunshine.

little sister standin’ in the sunshine laughin’/reminds me it ain’t no good to be sad/little sister runnin’ through the backyard yellin’/yellin’ at big sister and your dad.”

Mike’s ability to take a simple metaphor and expand it into an entire song is one the most characteristic and impressive traits he possesses. Wildflower, Comin’ Up Crows, and Break in the Storm are just a couple of examples of this style from back in The Great Divide days. He continues to show his narrative talent in his solo career with songs like Wicked Game of Hearts, Via Dolorosa, Jack of Diamonds, Open My Door, and on did7, The Eagle and the Crow.


Mike has absolutely nothing more to prove to be considered one of the most influential and prolific writers in the Texas/Red Dirt scene, yet he continues to put out records that simply amaze me. It still confounds me that his name hasn’t spread throughout wider circles in the alt-country world (and that i’m the only one that can be found on The Hype talking about him). Maybe his day will come; and, until then, i’ll do my best to spread the good word.

Get Mike’s music straight from him:

Artist Spotlight: Mike McClure (part 2)

Posted by Payton | Posted in album review, artist spotlight | Posted on 05-15-2008

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Check out Part 1

Since leaving The Great Divide, Mike McClure has focused not only on his solo career, but also his work in the studio – as producer and engineer. In 2004, Mike teamed up with fellow Okie musician Travis Linville and invested in a recording studio in Norman, OK – Dirtybird Recording. (Travis, whom i’ve been meaning to mention here recently, fronted The Burtschi Brothers and is currently promoting his new solo acoustic album See You Around). Mike’s reputation as a producer preceded him, and the studio was immediately booked solid. When the two finally found time to record some of their own stuff, they knew just how to go about it – a collaborative album. And McBurtschi was born:

The Burtschi Brothers & The Mike McClure Band
December 2004

mp3: Mike McClure Band – Queen of the Midnight
mp3: Mike McClure Band – Lost In The Dream

The two bands split time on this disc. Mike’s selections for the album show his versatility – a couple acoustic laments, a couple rockers, a gospel tune, and then something new just to throw you off – Lost In The Dream. This groovy tune showcases his unique guitar stylings and is unlike anything i had heard from Mike before – i feel like putting on jazzy suit and struttin’ down the sidewalk when i hear it.

Camelot Falling
September 2005

mp3: Mike McClure Band – Don’t Fear To Tread
mp3: Mike McClure Band – Remain

Working with another artist who has his hands in all aspects of music, Keith Sykes, Mike took off to Memphis, TN to record Camelot Falling. i’m also currently reviewing the catalog of Ryan Adams, and in addition to having different styles, the two musicians also have differing approaches to making albums. While Ryan has a unique mode, or even genre, per album, Mike perfectly intertwines all of his muses for one album. On this record, Mike chose to pay homage to a couple of his musical heroes by doing some covers. i posted and talked about his cover of Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic here, and his rendition of Neil Young’s Roll Another Number is an album highlight. Mike’s faith plays a huge role in his music, as he is always sure to include some sort of gospel tune. Traveler (posted here) tells of a battered soul asking for complete forgiveness by putting himself at the mercy of his Lord. The record is topped off with a resurrected Great Divide song. The title cut off his last record with the band, Remain is a hopeful song that… remains one of Mike’s best works to date.


Continue on to part 3……

Get Mike’s music straight from him:

Artist Spotlight: Mike McClure (part 1)

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, artist spotlight | Posted on 05-12-2008

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Sometimes the full breadth of a great artist’s talent isn’t recognized until their demise. Of course there are/were people along the way that fully understood the presence they were in. i’m here today to make sure that doesn’t happen with Mike McClure. In my circle of friends, as well as in the right circles within the Texas Music/Red Dirt scene, Mike is considered a genre pioneer, a captivating songwriter, an inventive guitarist, and hopefully soon enough – a legend.

Mike honed his musical chops with the successful Stillwater, OK band The Great Divide. Formed in ‘93, Mike and band began releasing albums independently before signing with a couple major labels. Citing lack of effort and enthusiasm from the both Atlantic and Broken Bow, The Great Divide released their final album with Mike as the frontman independently.

Possibly a little bitter from label troubles (as well as bandmate problems), Mike decided to leave the band in ‘02 and embark on a solo career. Since releasing his solo debut, Twelve Pieces, in July of ‘02, Mike has formed a band (with a couple lineup changes along the way) that – just last week – released its 5th record. The Mike McClure Band has released all these albums independently – and this could help explain Mike’s lack of exposure – but for now, i’m okay with that. i know how great he is and i don’t have to fight the masses…..

You can add talented producer to Mike’s list of accolades as well. Not only has he produced everything with his name on it, he holds the production credits on a number of Texas/Oklahoma band’s discs as well. He began by helping to produce Cross Canadian Ragweed’s second album, Highway 377, in ‘01 with fellow Great Divide member J.J. Lester. Ragweed has called on Mike’s personal touch for all four of their subsequent albums. Some other names Mike has produced records for include: Stoney LaRue, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, and The Dedringers.

So, there’s my attempt at a bio – i’ll get a little more in-depth with each album as i get to it. This is lookin’ like it’ll end up being longer than i expected, so i’ll break it up into a few parts.

don’t be a jackass – go here and buy
these albums. iTunes
has a couple, too, if that’s your thing.

To start off, here’s a couple good songs from The Great Divide to show where he’s coming from:

mp3: The Great Divide – Nowhere Woman ~ from Revolutions (1999)
mp3: The Great Divide – Fly On ~ from Remain (2002)
After Mike’s departure, The Great Divide attempted to continue with a new lead singer – to no avail. When you lose your frontman, songwriter, and lead guitarist – you’re pretty much done.

Twelve Pieces
July 2002

mp3: Mike McClure – Driftin’

My most prized album of his, this mainly acoustic disc (one song featuring Cody Canada of Cross Canadian Ragweed is a screamin’ electric tune) shows that sometimes simple is the best way to go. Stripped down and bearing his soul like never before, Mike shows the world (ok, maybe just Oklahoma and Texas) that he has arrived as a solo artist. The majority of these songs were ones that Mike had floating around that either didn’t fit with his former band, or he was unwilling to give up to them. Some about self-doubt, some about self-improvement, some gospel…..
all perfectly written.

if you’re gonna start somewhere, start here………

Everything Upside Down
April 2004

mp3: Mike McClure Band – Open My Door
mp3: Mike McClure Band – Just Not Good Enough

Never one to be pigeon-holed or genrized, Mike followed his acoustic debut with a full on, guitar soaked rock album – the debut of the MMB. At 19 tracks, he decided to put out three 4 song EP’s in the months prior to the full album release. Fitting the rock & roll motif, these EP’s were simply titled ‘gun’, ‘brass knuckles’, and ‘throwing star’, and helped to fund the entire recording process. Just Not Good Enough is a song written about the troubles that led to Mike leaving The Great Divide. If you saw my last Instrumental Interlude post, i posted another track from this album that’s the intro to Open My Door. Get ‘em both and listen to them together….

Perfectly spaced between the ROCK are few slower, ballad-ish songs. Check out She Gets To You, Lay Your Head Down, and Moon Is Almost Full – definitely one of Mike’s most image-inducing writing efforts – but i’ll talk more about that one later…………

If you like what you’ve heard, check out
The Gospel According to Mike
a entirely Mike McClure gospel post…..

Go To Part 2 —————->

Cover/Uncovered: Mike McClure…..

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, cover/uncovered | Posted on 04-26-2008

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i keep putting off that Artist Spotlight i’ve been planning for Mike McClure, but to get some more of his music out to you guys, i’ll highlight a couple of covers he regularly does. Both are covers of legendary artists and show both ends of the spectrum of Mike’s style.

i consider Mike one the best songwriters around today. This may come as a surprise to some of you, only because you’ve never heard of him. But i’ve known about his poetic way with words since about ‘98 – back with The Great Divide. I didn’t realize the genious in him until his first solo effort, Twelve Pieces, came out in ‘02. People who are great songwriters (and often know they are) normally have a hard time doing cover songs – if they do, they choose very wisely. That’s exactly the case here with Mike. From the multitude of McClure bootlegs i’ve come across, i know he’s a huge fan of Van Morrison. He finally put a cover of a Van song on an album with Into The Mystic on Camelot Falling:

Cover: Mike McClure Band – Into The Mystic

Mike (and band) stay very true to Van The Man’s version with this cover – from the acoustic intro, to the unmistakable bassline, and even the heartfelt vocals when the chorus builds. A perfect example of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Uncovered: Van Morrison – Into The Mystic <------ copyright issues...
buy Moondance (1970)

Most of the tracks i’ve posted from Mike show his singer-songwriter side, but if you have ever caught a concert of his, you know that’s not all there is. Mike is a dork for 80’s rock and when he plays live, he lets that kid in him that always dreamed of being in a hair-metal band come out – extended solos and amped up guitars. Mike was the frontman as well as lead guitarist for The Great Divide. When he first formed The Mike McClure Band in ‘03, he employed the help of lead-guitarist Rodney Pyeatt (former member of Selena’s band). This bootleg is from a show when Pyeatt was still with the band, but Mike eventually felt the need to rip up solo’s on his own again. The Mike McClure Band is currently a 3-piece (Mike, bassist Tom Skinner, and Eric Hansen on drums).

Cover: Mike McClure Band – Rockin’ In The Free World (live)
A staple of his live (full band) shows, Mike gives Rockin’ In The Free World a little twist both musically and by throwing in some slightly altered lines of his own.

The Gospel According To Mike….

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, gospel | Posted on 03-30-2008

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i’ve had a Gospel playlist on my iPod for quite some time now. There’s something really special about music in general, but add some uplifting lyrics inspired by The Man and you get something really moving. There’s one guy ultimately responsible for me becoming interested in this spiritually-rooted music (well, aside from Him of course) – Mike McClure. It most likely started after i got The Great Divide project Dirt and Spirit – a Red Dirt compilation disc of Gospel tunes:

mp3: The Great Divide – Deliver Us
mp3: The Great Divide – Angels Over Me
mp3: Susan Gibson & Mike McClure – Hung Down Head
mp3: Tom Skinner & Mike McClure – Blind Man

pick up Dirt & Spirit here.
Mike McClure, the (then) frontman of The Great Divide, has quite a few religious flavored songs in his repertoire. i’m not gonna delve real deep into all of Mike’s music today – i still plan on a full artist spotlight for him one day.
One of the most powerful and inspiring songs i’ve ever heard (and should have posted last Sunday for Easter) is Between Two Thieves. A simple but amazing re-telling of the resurrection.

mp3: Mike McClure – Between Two Thieves ~ from Twelve Pieces (2002)

Twelve Pieces was Mike’s solo debut album, and is aptly titled as it is simply 12 songs that he probably had floating around waiting to be recorded without the mainstream country touch that The Great Divide had.

Here’s some more of The Gospel According to Mike:
mp3: Mike McClure – Harder To Ignore ~ from Twelve Pieces (2002)
mp3: Mike McClure Band – Sweet Mother Mary ~ from EverythingUpsideDown (2004)
mp3: Mike McClure Band – Via Dolorosa ~ from Burtschi Brothers & Mike McClure Band (2004)
- Via Dolorosa is the road Jesus walked down on his way to the crucifix.
mp3: Mike McClure Band – Traveler ~ from Camelot Falling (2005)