John Clifton has a reputation for rock-solid live performances with MoFo Party Band, the West Coast blues band he started with his brother, Bill Clifton, in 1998.
On his first solo record, “Let Yourself Go,” John Clifton puts on his producer hat (the one that earned him a Polish Music Award in 2012).
The album – out now on Rip Cat Records – is 13 tracks of hard-hitting blues, soul and 1950s era R&B. It is available at Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes “and just about every other site you can think of,” Clifton says.
In 2012, Clifton received the Album of the Year award (with the Polish blues band The Boogie Boys) at The Blues Top Gala in Chorzow, Poland.
Of course, he hopes to see everyone out at the album-release show on Saturday, Oct. 17, at Audie’s Olympic Tavern. Clifton has assembled an all-star group of musicians to perform songs from the CD (and other cool tunes he likes to play). I talked with Clifton to find out more about the solo album.
Q: You (and your brother) perform as solo artists from time to time, but this is your first solo record. What made you decide to do a “John Clifton” album (as opposed to another MoFo record)? Why now?
A: I just felt like it was time to mix things up and experiment with doing things a little differently. The music is still the same kind of stuff I’ve always done, but I wanted to try a different approach and explore some different artistic avenues as a producer and musician.
I’m not getting any younger, so there’s no time like the present.
Q: Does your approach change when you’re working on solo material?
A; I paid more attention to arrangement. It’s a more lush sound but still very hard hitting. I utilized the strengths of lots of different musicians and, as a producer, used those talents like an auto mechanic’s toolbox.
The result was an album where every song has a different flavor. But every song is still me and what I hear in my head.
Q: OK, so whom did you pull in to help?
A: The album was done in three segments. I used local musicians for the first part of it – Roger Perry, Bill Clifton (my brother) on guitars, Jake Finney and Matt Moulton on electric bass, John Shafer on drums, and David “Big D” Fields on congas.
The second segment was the out-of-towners – Rusty Zinn, Kid Ramos, Bob Welsh from The Elvin Bishop Band and Scott Abeyta on guitars; Mike Turturro from the Memphis Kings on upright bass; Marty Dotson on drums; and my friend from Poland, Bartek Szopinski, on piano and organ.
The third phase was the vocal sessions. I used some of Fresno’s finest: Ed Burke, Mike Miller, Debi Ruud, Mystique Steward, Alex Ayala and Roger Perry. I took turns singing the bass vocals, of all things.
We recorded it in Fresno at Wolfsound. The recording went really quickly – about four days. When it came to final mixing, it took awhile. I micromanaged the mixing process to the point of sleep deprivation.
But after hearing the final result, I’m glad I did.
John Clifton Blues Band
- 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17
- Audie’s Olympic Tavern, 1426 N. Van Ness Ave.
- 559-270-7634, www.johncliftonmusic.com