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The Clark McLane Band to hold album release party in Jersey Shore

JERSEY SHORE — For about eight years, guitarists Clark McLane and Shawn Carr comprised a musical duo that played shows all over the area at local bars, fire halls, weddings, potluck dinners and pig roasts. But because the two musicians were only playing for fun, they would often change the name of their group from gig to gig. Though the band names they cycled through were entertaining enough — they played under such titles as Clarkensaw, The Folkin’ Americans, Hacksaw Folk Duggan and Hiring Cook, to name a few — eventually they would need to settle on one in particular for area music fans to recognize them more easily.

After the additions of Chris Stanonis (electric bass) and Tom Rainey (drums), the newly formed foursome settled on The Clark McLane Band as the name they would move forward with. Under the new title, the group is now set to debut its first album, “Commonfolk,” which will be released at an event that’s been dubbed “Meat. Beer. Music. In a Barn.” The release party, which will also feature three acts in addition to The Clark McLane Band, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Tiadaghton Farm, 707 River Road.

“This album is particularly exciting because it was recorded and released on our own,” said McLane, who plays harmonica, keys and acoustic guitar in the group. “(The album name) is as much a description of the sound as it is a perspective of the songwriting.”

For most, The Clark McLane Band would likely be classified as an Americana group. But the band members, who “collectively abhor defining genres,” like to think of their sound as “electric folk.” Regularly taking on the structure of a folk ensemble, the additions of electric instruments and percussion are what loosely give the band its Americana feel. With an original and tight-knit sound, all four members are often able to play together melodically over slight changes in rhythm and key.

Though each of the band’s members are classically trained, they have all performed in many genres on various instruments. That makes their dive into folk music that much more compelling.

“(We) are excited to be performing (our) own take on comparatively simple folk songs, simply because it feels good,” said McLane.

All of the songs on the new 12-track album were written by McLane in a raw form on the acoustic guitar. After he established a firm base for the songs, the other members of the group then helped to refine each of the tunes. McLane said that Carr, who plays electric guitar in the group, was often called on to “put lipstick on this pig” after a song was written for the album.

“Shawn has used this song form to invent his own telecaster sound. Sometimes described as banjo caster, chicken-pickin’, or bacon grease, his clean sound sometimes has echoes of jazz or even Bach,” McLane said. “Chris’ Fender P bass has a wholesome roundness that can drive a burning song, or float funk over space. Tom is every bit a timing machine as he is an intuitive ear-catching percussionist that isn’t afraid to go off the beaten path.”

Some tracks on the album, like “Nothing New Under the Sun” and “Turn & Return,” evoke recurring themes of humanity. Two other tracks (“Jarvis Lee” and “A Horse and a Badge”) appear to vaguely take place in the Western United States, and are wrapped around stories. There are also a few songs (“Standing Still,” “Onward I Go” and “October Leaves”) that don’t offer a story, but instead rely on loosely connected imagery to play on the human condition.

Other tunes, such as “I Did I Did” and “Dark Side of the Hollow,” are “pure Lycoming County” according to McLane.

“As much as a writer aspires to complete a timeless song that could sound traditional, the fact is we are bound by our own time and own place,” he said.

Of all the songs on “Commonfolk” the one that provides the closest link to the album’s title is “A Ghost is Just an Angel,” which celebrates the people that weave in and out of a person’s life.

“The vocals (on the album) have dense language that, if not at first comprehended, are at least delivered urgently,” said McLane. “Sometimes it’s just as powerful to not know the outcome of the story.

“The release of this album will be a test for the listener to digest lyrics,” he added.

The recording of the album was done in what the band calls “The Bomb Shelter” which was an unfinished basement that the guys in the group turned into their own studio; they did everything from laying the drywall to building isolated sound booths. McLane said Stanonis went to great lengths to provide equipment and to engineer a space that would allow the band to cut the live takes that can be found on the album; he also mastered each of the tracks.

“Nothing can mimic the essence of a live take,” McLane said. “We would do four or five takes and then vote on one. There were a few overdubs for solos and harmonies, but we wanted to capture the live band.

“We are also proud that this is a raw recording, very little effects or distortion,” he added. “Loud and clear, there is less sizzle and more steak. The sound itself plays on the title.”

Joining The Clark McLane Band for their album release party will be The Handsome Ramblers, The Joe Jaser Quartet, and Chuck Darwin & The Knuckledraggers. For more information, visit facebook.com/clarkmclaneband.

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