Bryan Clark and The New Lyceum Players

Playing with familiar forms and attempting to update them is central to the music-making process—as is championing a particular regional sound. Taking something familiar and making it your own, however, is an elusive feat. On Southern Intermission (Rainfeather Records), Nashville-based Bryan Clark and The New Lyceum Players take traditional American rock and roots influences and elevate them beyond their Music City, Memphis and Delta foundations.
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Bryan Clark and The New Lyceum Players, Southern Intermission

Playing with familiar forms and attempting to update them is central to the music-making process—as is championing a particular regional sound. Taking something familiar and making it your own, however, is an elusive feat. On Southern Intermission (Rainfeather Records), Nashville-based Bryan Clark and The New Lyceum Players take traditional American rock and roots influences and elevate them beyond their Music City, Memphis and Delta foundations.

Clark is a remarkably literate songwriter and storyteller, and The New Lyceum Players (Clark on guitar and vocals, Adam Fluhrer on guitar, Benjamin “Mo” Levine on bass and John Toomey on drums) are an ace band, able to inject these vivid songs with performances that are red-hot one minute, nuanced and subtle the next. The album’s centerpiece, “Leave the Devil’s Garden,” displays the instrumental thrills, arranging dynamics and lyrical craft.

Produced, engineered and mixed solely by Clark at his Rainfeather Studios, he gives the instruments plenty of breathing room even when the band is wailing, so as horns or strings enter the mix, the songs never crowd, only deepen. Recorded live in the studio, with ribbon mics (no EQ) through a Tascam DM-4800, with vintage outboard gear including an EMI TG12413 Zener-Limiter and a Shadow Hills Optograph into Sonar X1 Producer, the album is infused with a warm sonic richness that allows for little touches of Hammond and gospel vocals to sharpen the tracks.

Plus, Southern Intermission is a guitar player’s feast. Clark and Fluhrer seamlessly cover tremendous stylistic ground. A chicken-pick riff might drive one section only to segue into some liquid, Allmans-inspired dual-leads the next. Tasteful lines reminiscent of Mark Knopfler laying back give way to grimy slide vamps. There’s something like John Scofield jamming with Lynyrd Skynyrd here, and modal jazz runs meshed with full-tilt, ’70s tube-driven boogie there.

Producer/engineer/mix engineer: Bryan Clark

Assistant engineers: Mark Lange, Alan Litten.

Recorded at: Rainfeather Studios, Brentwood, Tenn.

Mastering engineer: Jim Demain at Yes Master!