Concert Review: Eddie Clendening, Mike Graham, Jason Smay, Danielle Ponder at Record Archive



This is a band so new, it ain't got a name yet. It got slapped together after Denver, Colorado, strummer and crooner Eddie Clendening sat in for an impromptu jam at Abilene with The Lustre Kings. Clendening is here on business. It just so happens that rockin' is his business, and business is good. He's performing as part of "Good Rockin' Live: A Salute to Sun Records," now playing at the Winton Road location of Downstairs Cabaret Theatre. So on his nights off he's plugged into a locomotive rhythm section with Hot Rod Mike Graham (Electro Kings) and Jason Smay (Hi-Risers, JD McPherson) to make up this killer nameless combo. They rocked The Record Archive's Black Friday house on, well, Black Friday.

You may recognize the name from when Clendening played the part of Elvis Presley as part of the hit Broadway sensation "Million Dollar Quartet," which came to the Auditorium Theatre a few years back. But salutes to the King and all the King's men on the Sun label and beyond are just a mere whisper of what this mile-high rockabilly cat is capable of, especially in this line-up.

Clendening knows the great American rockabilly songbook inside and out, as well as the more obscure names like Johnny Powers, Joe Clay, Ronnie Dawson, and Mickey Baker (of Mickey and Sylvia fame). But it's when he digs into his own material off his killer album "Walkin and Cryin'" that the man truly shines with a period-correct reverence and contemporary sting. Clendending's guitar has teeth, with a naturally nasty tone driven by his bare hands. His thump-and-scream leads remind me a lot of the late Paul Burlison's work with The Rock and Roll Trio. It's some of the best rockabilly I've heard, ever -- and I listen to a lot, man.

Don't blame Danielle Ponder. She can't help it. No matter what kind of band you put her in front of, the soul is there. You can't hide genuine soul. That's not to say she was trying to hide anything with her grooving set following Clendening's trio at the Archive, but her new band, Tomorrow People, is abbreviated and a little more straight ahead -- a little less r&b than Black August and a bit less angular than Filthy Funk -- and it comes off sweet and rocking. What remains is Ponder's passion. She doesn't just sing the notes, but rather wrings the blood and tears out of them. She is an incredibly gifted singer that is felt as much as she is heard.

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