Some of the world’s greatest singers had humble beginnings.
Bob Dylan got his start in Greenwich Village cafés. Even the Beatles began in small places like the Cavern Club. Carly Clark follows in this long tradition.
Recently, I caught Clark during a performance at Little Amps Coffee Roasters in Harrisburg. After a relatively long set by Kevin Bock (who added percussion on the cojón for a few numbers), she joined him and her bassist husband, Todd, opening with Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.”
Her smoky voice reminded me of Norah Jones. While originals like “Where I Belong” and “Oh, Darling” don’t quite possess the same jazzy progressions as on Jones’ debut, “Come Away with Me,” their dreamlike quality is equally enticing. Indeed, Clark cites Jones as an inspiration, as well as Colbie Caillat, John Mayer and Nina Simone.
In fact, Mayer’s influence showed on “Where I Belong.” The third song and first original she played, it rode along on a wave of soft, strummy chords and a breezy melody. The rhythmic changes and flow displayed the chemistry between the three performers.
A cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” followed, with Bock leaving the group to join the audience. Sipping a cup of strong coffee, he suddenly became less the musician and more the music fan.
The first song Clark and her husband played as a duo, “Dreams,” offered an intimate look at what it’s like when couples make music together. According to Carly, Todd learned the bass so he could accompany her at shows. There is a certain bond that people get when locked in a steady groove, and this is certainly true in their case.
They are an interesting pair from a visual standpoint. Carly’s small stature is offset by Todd’s height. While he towers over the bass, keeping a lock down on the rhythm, her guitar appears at times as if it could knock her down without a fight.
One thing that Clark feels is important to her art is positivity.
“I like to write about positive things and love most of the time,” she explained. “With everything that goes on with the world, it is nice to have something positive to think about and share with people around you.”
Indeed, this sense of love filled the cozy venue during “Oh, Darling.” The track, which she said was recently released as a single, carries the hypnotic quality found in “Breathe It Out.” At one point in the song, she requested that listeners snap their fingers. They did, and the song moved along without a hitch.
Clark’s ability to command attention was marvelous, and it showed her presence and ability to put on a show. Many performers seem eager to either shut out the audience or put up a wall, but, here, we had someone who wanted to get right in there and bond.
Following a cover of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” Clark closed her set with an original, “Is it Too Soon?” All of her songs had a well-crafted edge to them, and this is most likely due to how long she’s been at it. By her own admission, she began writing songs because she “found it easier to write my own songs than play covers.”
I left with a feeling that Carly Clark’s songs offer plenty for a casual listener, along with a wealth of things for those who dig deeper. As the artist herself said, she wants her audience “to feel at peace, refreshed,” and to “have fun at the same time.”
For more information about Carly Clark, visit www.carlyclarkmusic.com or look her up on Facebook: Carly Clark Music. Two shows are planned for May 6—one at noon at the Winery at Hunters Valley, 3 Orchard Rd., Liverpool, and another at 8 p.m. at Victor’s, 554 S. Ogontz St., York.