As avid admirers of Costello’s rich back catalogue since his “angry young man” earliest days, ‘Country Darkness’ arrives as both a salutation to the man himself and something of a labour of love for My Darling Clementine. Drawing together a collection of three 4-track EPs for the first time (‘Country Darkness’ Vol. 1-3), the upcoming compilation sees the band host some of the lesser-known marvels from Costello's repertoire and explore their potential for something entirely different; and often darker... Reconfiguring the tracks with shades of Gothic Americana, Outlaw Country and heartbreaking Folk, the trademark vocal duet of King’s lugubrious baritone and Dalgleish’s tender siren-song unearth exquisite drama in Costello’s scriptures.
Offering a carefully considered and retrospective selection, ‘Country Darkness’ sees the band take-on a representative range of Elvis’ multiplicitous and ever-changing eras. From his work withthe Attractions “Stranger In The House”, “Too Soon To Know”, “Why Can’t A Man Stand Alone”), to the Imposters (“Either Side of The Same Town”); to cherry-picking some remarkablesolo efforts(“The Crooked Line”, “I Lost You”), as well as reappraising a smattering of his inspiring collaborations with Emmylou Harris (“Heart Shaped Bruise”), Grammy-winnerLoretta Lynn(“I Felt The Chill Before The Winter Came”), Paul McCartney “That Day Is Done”), legendary Nashville singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale(“Different Finger”), and of course, his long standing right-hand man: Steve Nieve.
Synonymous with the Elvis Costello sound, Steve Nieve has worked with Elvis since 1977, recording with him for the first time on his second album ‘This Years Model’. He was a founding member of The Attractions, and now, for over 20 years, one of The Imposters. A Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member, Nieve has become one of the most in-demand session keyboard players in the world with his playing identifiable on countless classic records. Which now includes My Darling Clementine’s ‘Country Darkness’ LP. As the band sought Nieve’s seal of approval for the project, the legendary keyboardist went one better and offered his services to the project instead. Actively involved throughout working with the pair in song selections and arrangements, his unmistakable style is evident throughout.
Further formidable accompaniment on the record comes from Richard Hawley’s esteemed backing-band: Colin Elliott (bass/cello), Shez Sheridan (guitars) and Dean Beresford (drums). Having played on My Darling Clementine’s acclaimed second album: ‘The Reconciliation’, King and Dalgleish reunite with the trio to recapture the same magic here. Additional players on the record also include former Van Morrison and Nick Lowe horn players Matt Holland and Martín Winning.
Pre-produced at Steve Nieve’s home in France, the recordings were then transferred to Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield where they were produced in collaboration between King and Colin Elliot (who has notably also produced Richard Hawley, Jarvis Cocker, Duane Eddy and more).
As something of an added bonus track, a completely original and previously unheard My Darling Clementine composition entitled “Powerless” is also included on the upcoming album release. Guest featuring Nieve’s playing and bearing Costello’s lyrical fingerprints, this smouldering country ballad between King and Dalgleish closes a collection of remarkable reinventions with a track that confirms there’s more than a little shared DNA between Costello and Clementine.
Speaking about the ‘Country Darkness’ project, Michael Weston King says:
“Making these recordings took me back to my 19-year-old-self, out buying a copy of 'Almost Blue' during my lunch hour. It was Elvis and Steve’s making of that album which set me, and I think many others of my generation, off along a country path to discover more about this form of music previously only viewed with suspicion. For me it became something of a pilgrimage, a vocation, even a “career.” So this feels like the completing of a musical circle of sorts — to record a selection of some of mine and Lou’s favourite EC country songs with the added thrill of performing them with Steve”.
And on working with Steve Nieve on the project, Lou Dalgleish adds:
“Reflecting on those early years spent listening to my hero of the keyboard [accompanying my personal king of songwriting, EC) was it any wonder that in the spring of 2019, when he sat down right next to me and began his incredible intro to our first collaboration, that I couldn’t sing for crying? Thanks Steve, for making this sulky girl very happy.”