Cyrus Clarke has been playing his own brand of
Americana music in the Golden West since the early nineteen-seventies. In 1972 he co-founded the Cache Valley Drifters in Santa Barbara, California. From their home base they gathered a good head of steam and tapped a potent and growing interest in traditional acoustic music all over the US.
Over the next thirteen years the Drifters rode hard and fast over the club and festival circuit from San Francisco to New York City and back again. In between their long haul tours they recorded three well received albums for Flying Fish Records.
With the Drifters in abeyance by the late
eighties, Clarke and long time picking pal,
mandolinist Mike Mullins, kicked up a new band, The
Acousticats. This stellar group, which also featured
virtuoso fiddler Phil Salazar, was a tremendous
showcase for Cyrus' inventive flatpicking guitar work
and songwriting talents. As they criss-crossed the
West from the Rockies to the Sierra Nevada, Montana to the
Mexican border, Tucson to Tucumcari, the Acousticats
developed a reputation for exciting performances and
innovative arrangements. They also produced two finely tuned recordings for Flying Fish and Ranch Recording.
Clarke's history illustrates a long interest in
creating new sounds. His newest projects, the Cyrus Clarke Band, Cyrus Clarke and the Expedition, and his solo
endeavors are intialled with a contemporary approach
to an always changing contemporary folk scene. The ensembles comprise mandolin, guitars, bass, and percussion and provide a wonderful context for his songs and fine
guitar playing. As time goes on, Clarke continues to
use music to flex his imagination and reflect on
experiences around him. His feet are planted firmly in
the west and he has stayed true to his roots in
the fertile soil of California.
Americana music in California is a force which
blew out of the Great Valley on a wave of twang, glitter,
hard knocks, lonesome songs, and sorrowful steel guitars. The first incarnation was a honky-tonk scene in Bakersfield, a hard scrabble oil town that gave
birth to the telecaster driven music of singers like
Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. This tough, yet plaintive sound took the Grapevine south to Los Angeles and influenced Rose Maddox, Bob Wills, Merle Travis, Don Rich, Roy Nichols, Fuzzy Owen, Ken Nelson, James Burton, and Joe Maphis; all postwar purveyors of honky-tonk dreams on the edge of the world.
In the sixties a new, hard edged take on those
traditional sounds morphed into country music LA
style. It grew quickly through Merle and Buck to
Chris Hillman, Clarence White, Jimmy Messina, Gram
Parsons, Roger McGuinn, Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt,
Emmy Lou Harris, Neil Young and a host of others.
Along with the Bakersfield sound, rhythm and
blues and rock were driving forces throughout California,
particularly in the rapidly growing urban areas. In
East Los Angeles, a fertile, thriving Latino culture
produced hybrids beautifully suited to the strong
character of the land and the people. Meanwhile up in San Francisco a new style of music was evolving with rock as its catalyst. California Americana's rock influence is fully realized in themusic of Ritchie Valens, Los Lobos, the Grateful Dead,David Lindley, the Byrds, the Blasters, Santana,Buffalo Springfield, The Flying Burrito Brothers,
and many other great bands.
San Francisco's coffee houses also produced a
heady, iconoclastic acoustic music scene. It may have
started in the hills south of the city where fledgling
folkies Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter, and David Nelson
were playing bluegrass as the Hart Valley Drifters.
Maybe it settled in later when the Dead and the New Riders
of the Purple Sage rode their sound into the sunset.
Farther north back among the redwood trees, traditional music found its voice in the plaintive, yearning simplicity of Jim Ringer and Mary McCaslin. And in the rolling grassy hills of Marin County, David Grisman's mando cohort, the Quintet, with its lucky plucking bounciness and minor swing on the edge of the "grass" changed the rules on how to play music with traditional instruments.
All this interweaving has lead to new styles and
new sounds. It has defined traditional music on the West
Coast. Kate Wolf's sensible, beautiful odes to
humanity hold court along with Laurie Lewis's fine
fiddling, writing, and singing. The Cache Valley
Drifters have been stalwarts of the scene for over
thirty years, constantly developing and grooving with
grace and fire. Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan are two of
the finest blues men of their generation, and their
influences and homes are here on the sun drenched
West Coast. Dave Alvin, one of the original Blasters
successfully defines what modern folk music should
So here we are in the Golden State of California....so many places to so many people. We're at the beginning of a new century, trying to write the book on what's going to be next. Nobody knows for sure, but we'll be redefining Americana music, California style for
generations to come.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Cool Water Canyon
2. The Road To Ensenada
3. Emptiness Of Rainbows
4. Letter To Papa
5. Red Car
6. The Hymn Of Robert Clarke
7. Across The Great Divide
8. Don't Slip away
9. Bonita Marie
10. Change Done Took My Love Away