Although a co-founder of Hobgoblin Music and a member of several different folk bands, Pete McClelland has only just released an album in his own right. Inspired by nearly forty years of Stateside road trips soundtracked by country music, McClelland describes Carolina Sky as a “real and imagined journey across the USA”. Indeed, there are more than a few inescapable splashes of Americana throughout the album; from the cover image of the Blue Ridge Mountains (immortalised in the country genre for decades) to the American geography found throughout the songs – especially in key numbers, like the title track, and album opener ‘The Appalachian Way’.
Written in 2015, the song paints a picture of true friendship in the setting of the American South:“We’re driving down from Redway to Ashville, Leave the frozen Mississippi far behind /I’m gonna sit and smoke, have a couple of beers, I hope, And see my buddy Jerry bye and bye”
Recorded in Sussex, England and Nashville, Tennessee, the sounds of country music absolutely drench the album and along with the aforementioned opener, there are a few other numbers which also stand out. ‘Walk This Road’ is particularly deserving of a mention, not only for McClelland’s lyrical celebration of his own family, but for the fact that this was the piece which got the ball rolling for McClelland as a songwriter. Perhaps the strongest number is the mandolin-laced ‘Carolina Sky’ and its picturesque lyrical content which makes one yearn to go back to Carolina…even if one has never been to Carolina in the first place. The honky-tonking, bluesy follow up, ‘Marie’ and ‘A Kind of Kindness’ (another one of McClelland’s earliest efforts) are worth a shout too. A new flavour is introduced in the album’s final track, ‘Marion’, through the Cajun accordion of Jason Pegg, and it’s a fitting to end the record; dedicated to McClelland’s wife, Mannie, his travelling companion for the coast to coast journeys which inspired Carolina Sky.
In the album’s notes, McClelland writes “I went to Nashville to see if anyone might cover my songs, never really planned to put this out there myself…” but with so much of the album written about friends, family or McClelland’s love of travelling, it feels only right that we should hear his stories and his songs in his own voice.
Christopher James Sheridan
Artist’s website: www.petemcclelland.com