The Mike McClure Band Does It Their Way
Dennis and Brenda Kippa
Always looking for new music, we were listening to various artists on
the music player “Spotify” when we heard our first song by Mike
McClure. It was a remake of “Into The Mystic”, which is a decades-old
song by Van Morrison. This song is what Brenda refers to as her
“all-time favorite song in the whole universe”, and remakes of it
have fallen far short, according to her. However, the version by Mike
McClure was as good as it gets (other than the original), and it
really won us over. We immediately sent for all three available CDs
and marked our calendar for the first chance we could find to catch
him in concert. We knew we had found another amazing artist.
Mike's sound is a little bit country and a whole lot of rock and
roll. The music industry puts a
label on this blend of music, calling it Red Dirt music.
Mike McClure was originally part of a band called The Great Divide.
They recorded many albums, which won rave reviews and kept them
touring heavily during the 90's. As a front man, Mike was said to
give great performances every time they played. But as the story is
told, this is the part where the band's management company hired a new
producer to “take them to the next level”. The first thing the
producer did was change the sound of the band, which proved to be a
horrendous mistake. As soon as the first CD was released, the fans
heard the difference in the sound and did not like it. Worse still,
Mike McClure did not like it, either. He was not happy that the band
had given up the sound that had brought them to the dance.
The ensuing turmoil led to the breakup of The Great Divide and Mike
went out on his own. Eventually, he formed The Mike McClure Band and
they set off to reclaim the Red Dirt music that they and their fans
had been missing. Ironically, along the way Mike had also started to
produce music for a number of other artists, being careful not to make
the same mistakes that his old producer had made.
The band consists of Mike McClure on vocals and guitar, Tom Skinner on
bass, and Eric Hansen on drums. Their first album together, released
in 2005, was called “Camelot Falling”. The previously-mentioned “Into
The Mystic” is on this one. In 2010, they released not one, but two
albums, “Halfway Out Of The Woods” and “Zero Dark Thirty”, both of
which were produced by Joe Hardy. Hardy also contributed vocals,
keyboards and guitar to several cuts. All three albums utilized guest
musicians to give each song the full measure of McClure's vision for
the songs he penned.
Our opportunity to see the band perform came this past weekend in
Idabell, Oklahoma. On the two hour trip to the venue, we listened to
all three CDs all the way there. As is often the case with performers
that are new to us, we arrived still uncertain exactly what to expect.
The place was completely full of eager Mike McClure fans. Clearly,
most had been following his career for a long time. Those sitting next
to us used the extra time by telling us their favorite stories about
the band and their music.
At the appointed time, in walks a scruffy-looking bald guy, wearing a
scruffy white t-shirt, bermuda shorts and tennis shoes. This was our
man, Mike McClure. A fan sitting next to us leaned in and explained
with a big grin, “that's the way he always looks”. After a
sound-check that seemed more like a part of the performance, the band
launched into a wild ride of a show. We didn't know all of the songs,
but we didn't need to. A highlight for us was provided by bass player,
Tom Skinner. Sitting on a stool in a darkened part of the stage,
Skinner quietly played his bass all through the show. When it was his
turn to step up to the mike, an eruption of crazy applause welcomed
him. We can't tell you what he sang, although it was so wonderful
that we were moved to record the performance with our video camera.
Even in listening to it again, the title escapes us; however it was so
earnestly and beautifully delivered, with lyrics so moving... well,
this is why we go to these things, folks.
We feel safe in reporting that everyone was thoroughly entertained.
There's no doubt about that at all. But when the end of the show
arrived, they simply exited the stage. No “goodbye”, no “thanks for
coming”, no nothing. The lights came on and they were gone. No need
to shout for more; it was over. Hey, it was his show. He cut up and
joked with the audience all the way through. We loved him, same as
everyone else who was there. We got the idea that this time around,
Mike McClure is doing it for the sake of the music and for those who
love it the way he does.