W.C. CLark at the Silver Dollar, May 17. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 50. Rating: NNNN
A fundraiser for the Distress Centre seems like a perfectly worthy benefit, yet the $20 cover attached to the W.C. Clark show may have been overly ambitious at the start of a get-outta-town weekend.The unusually thin Friday-night crowd lining the Silver Dollar bar and empty tables with "reserved" signs for a performance by respected Austin guitar-slinger Clark -- a formative influence on the young Stevie Ray Vaughan -- confirmed as much.
Playing to a less-than-half-filled room didn't appear to bother an old- school showman like Clark, who kept the funky dance grooves rolling hard while looking quizzically at the empty floor space surrounding one enthusiastic patron who kept raising his brew and shouting, "Yeah! Yeah!" after every phrase.
He wasn't above playing to the audience. The excited applause that greeted the intro to Stormy Monday Blues let him know that these were people who'd come to hear familiar favourites.
So instead of ramming down the tunes from his great new disc, From Austin With Soul (Alligator), Clark thoughtfully alternated club standards with new material, like his brilliant resurrection of the Jimmy Lewis deep soul obscurity How Long Is A Heartache Supposed To Last? that let him show off his impressive pipes.
Although Clark made his rep with his guitar -- he's got an engagingly breezy style that synthesizes the best of George Benson and Freddie King -- his voice is his real strength.
The early gospel training is evident each time he lets out a high melismatic flourish reminiscent of Ted Taylor. Clark's recordings have only just begun to show off the breadth of his talent.TIM PERLICH