September 27, 2023
Nic Clark – Everybody’s Buddy

Nic Clark – Everybody’s Buddy

Little Village Foundation

12 songs – 46 minutes

One of the feel-good stories in the blues in recent years has been the ascendancy of Nic Clark, a former teen prodigy on guitar and harmonica who’s a rising star as a songwriter, too. He hits new heights with this disc, an acoustic sophomore outing, on which he puts a unique Gen Z spin on growing up in a life of trouble while demonstrating maturity far beyond his tender years.

Now age 27 and a Mexican-American who was born and raised in Colorado, Nic’s childhood was unconventional to the extreme. After discovering the blues through a book about harmonica playing one day, Clark was playing out in bars – with his mother’s permission – at age 12, eventually sharing the stage with Billy Branch, Lazy Lester, Big Bill Morganfield and Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, which led to a long internship as a jack-of-all-trades under Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios in California.

As a youth, Clark dealt head-on with more hardship than any youth deserves, including a life of poverty, a lifelong weight problem, struggles in the classroom and frequent truancies, caffeine addiction, loss of loved ones, car accidents and more. He reflects on his past with style and self-deprecating grace throughout this set, delivering 11 warm, intimate originals and a single cover – all of which will leave you smiling because of all the upbeat messages and positive affirmations they contain.

It’s a major departure from Love Your Life: Songs for the Whole Family, his 2021 debut, which produced by Andersen and included contributions from drummer Derrick “D’mar” Martin and bassist Jerry Jemmott and contained tunes Nic penned for both a niece and nephew and his parents and grandparents. Produced by guitar master Charlie Hunter in Greensboro, N.C., the lineup here includes Nic on harp, six-string and honeyed tenor vocals with Hunter on hybrid guitar and bass and George Sluppick on bass. Scared steel pedal guitarist DaShawn Hickman and vocalist Wendy Hickman make guest appearances.

“Laughing at the Rain” lopes slowly out of the gate to open as Clark optimistically states: “I may be livin’ on borrowed time, givin’ up my place in line, but the sun is out today…and I can’t help but smile at all the ways I lose myself.” The upbeat “It’ll Be Alright” finds Nic dispensing a little homespun advice to a friend with “a worried mind” to simply get through each day and keep up the fight despite dealing with sorrows and the feeling that the individual’s never where he wants to be.

Dealing with totaling two cars between ages 21 and 23, the infectious “Try to Understand” describes the importance of living a life of patience and compassion for yourself while moving on from troubles. It’s a tune that probably has even more meaning for the tunesmith today because – just prior to these words being written – someone rear-ended and demolished Clark’s current ride and his equipment, too. The only cover in the set — J.B. Lenoir’s “Good Advice” – celebrates a conversation with his granny and keeps the theme going before “Hurricanes” serves as a tribute to longtime pal/guitarist Gino Matteo, who also provided sage advice during Nic’s teens.

Featuring tasty fingerpicking throughout, “She’s a Fighter” honors a nutritionist friend for her valiant fight against both chronic disease and mounting medical bills and the husband who remains steadfastly at her side while the Chicago-flavored shuffle drives home the message “Don’t Count Yourself Out” before “Anxiety Blues” recounts the affects of drinking too much coffee while stranded at home at the height of the coronavirus epidemic.

One of the most moving numbers in the set, “How I Met the Blues” is a minor-key, six-minute burner on chromatic harp that Clark penned at age 11 following the sudden passing of an 13-year-old cousin on the first day of summer vacation. Primarily an instrumental, his work deep on the reeds expresses the family’s pain. The somber tone continues in “Flying Blind” – about another cousin’s troubles in school – before the upbeat “Everybody’s Buddy” – a tip of the hat to all of Nic’s friends – and “Breathe Slow” – about a friend enduring a panic attack – bring the disc to a close.

Having a bad day? Give this disc a spin. Nic Clark is a young treasure, and his upbeat attitude and positively spun tunes are guaranteed to lift your spirits and brighten your mood again.

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