The Life and Death of A.J Rail, Released October 12th 2015
''First thing to say about this release is it’s a truly remarkable overall package, full to bursting with spare, slippery acoustic fretwork on both guitar and banjo. The dozen tracks are all self-written with an evident understanding of the old-time, blues tradition and a touch of modernity that never swamps the originality.
Back in the day, of course, banjo was often the only instrument of choice available to share-cropping, blistered and bruised old bluesmen in the Deep South. Nowadays it tends to be overplayed, full of sparkling notes without a heartbeat or, seemingly on occasion, any real subtlety, feeling or passion. Clatch to his credit avoids this perilous pitfall with a notably spare, deceptively basic picking style reminiscent of the old claw-hammer pioneers from the turn of the twentieth century. The result is an album that has an unusually effective added ingredient mostly lacking in blues releases these days.
The songs themselves chart the story of a life lived with more than a touch of sin and scandal, debauchery, and defiance of the only certainty in life – old man Death itself. If anything, this really is the Devil’s Music, writ large. The Grim Reaper seems to be more than welcome here.
In addition, Clatch is always sure-footed with his fretwork and slide mastery. Pace and tempo both vary alongside lyrics that grab the attention to produce a near-effortless triumph. In many ways, ‘The Life & Death of AJ Rail’ could well prove to be the most original blues release of the year.'' - Iain Patience, Blues magazine (Netherlands), October 15th 2015.
''I first caught Half Deaf Clatch live a year or so ago when he was riding high on the success of his terrific album 'A Road less Travelled'. It was, to coin a HatPhrase, 'true blues and no messin'. In his new album The Life and Death of A.J Rail, he is back on that dust road and has conjured up a charming, wry and raw tale of one man's journey long ago in the deep south.
''I love this album from start to finish - the concept, the songs and the instrumentation. The Life and Death of A.J Rail is Clatch’s next logical step – and a huge step up it is too. A career defining album at this point in his career may be surprising, but Clatch’s drive, determination, and – most importantly – talent leave me in no doubt that this is THE ONE. If there is any justice this will be the album to move Clatch even further up in the blues scene - not just in the UK but Internationally. It is really that good. It paints fantastic pictures in my head of those tough times - always in black & white - dust, roads, travelling, life stories, death stories, everything. Wow! This is Clatch’s best work yet and deserves to be huge... And it will be!" - Gary Grainger, The Blues Show on Bishop FM, September 2015.
The Blues Continuum, Released Sep 1st 2014
HDC, a British Blues Award 2014 finalist, wrote most of the material here, together with Red Burley. Who features on backing vocals. The album has been gaining airplay with blues shows across the UK since pre-release promo copies were made available a few weeks ago.
There are clear shades of Son House in the mix but this album is not just another of those old music replayed affairs; far from it. It's a finely crafted work of traditional sounding musical reinvention and much more. From the gripping, jangling slide work on the intro to the first track, 'Bury My Bones', to the close, ten tracks later, 'The Blues Continuum' serves as an engaging showcase for Half Deaf Clatch's gravel vocals, soulful picking and strong song-writing skills.
This is one of those all too rare things: a simply cracking, crackling bit of originality. With roots firmly in the Deep South but produced in England, 'The Blues Continuum' brings a flavor of new blues with new songs and sounds to a wider audience. Track five, entitled 'Good Thing', says it all and fittingly hints at what to expect here. Positively recommended. - Iain Patience, Music News Sep 2014.
A Road Less Travelled, released December 9th 2013
Here's what Gary had to say about one of "The best solo acoustic blues musicians in the UK".. :
"I was up way too early this morning after a late drive home from Hull. but it was worth it. I was privileged to be involved last night in the pre-release event for Half Deaf Clatch's new CD - A Road Less Travelled. A partisan crowd were up for it from the start, with Acoustica sounding great with their 4 part harmonies and great selection of songs. After a temporary PA glitch was sorted, I took my turn, and realised I need to change strings on my guitar more than once every 4 years! However, the crowd, for the most part, sat quietly and enjoyed what I did, and even laughed at my jokes - result! After a short interlude, the main man Andrew Halfdeaf McLatchie took to the stage and regaled us with songs old and new. It was obvious that Andrew is well thought of in these parts, as every song received a rapturous reception, and audience participation where appropriate was the norm. Obviously most of the songs were from the brand new album, A Road Less Travelled, which was available on the night in a signed and numbered special edition. From today the album will be available for pre-order from Bandcamp - and will be available generally from December 9th, with digital releases from all of the usual places.
I must make special mention of Andrew's muse, mentor, mate and manager - Red - she has made a huge investment of her time in getting Andrew organised, publicised and generally recognised - every struggling blues musician could do with a Red - but don't ask, she's too busy.
A Road Less Travelled will be Album of the Week on next week's Blues Show on BishopFM, and I have an interview with Andrew too that I'll play out.
It is refreshing to see a talent such as Andrew - whilst firmly rooted in the blues tradition with his slide guitars and stomp board, his lyrics and subject matter reflect the concerns of all of us who live in the 21st Century, and even of some of us who choose to play this music we call the blues. My best wishes to Andrew and Red. Not only do I know that Andrew will go from strength to strength with this album, but I also know that I'd like to be along for the ride! Andrew will also be playing live in The Blues Show Studio on December 22nd."
"Sounds like deep blues from the Delta - without the surface noise"..."Great album - my cuppa tea!!"
Howling Dick of the "Downhome with Howling Dick" Blues Show on taintradio.org
"Clatch has managed to find that 'sweet spot' most players
can't find - traditional acoustic slide blues played with a
modern 'twist'.....perfect for this day 'n age....he is one of the 'modern-day
Troubadors' in a similar stance to Catfish Keith & many others of our 'age'.
A blues musician who takes the 'bones' of pre-war acoustic slide blues
music & puts a modern-day take on the songs.... I love original Robert
Johnson, Son House & Charley Patton recordings - but I prefer to hear
present day bluesmen take those songs to another level."
Ian McWee of Diamond Bottlenecks
"...The opening track, Hard Times Just Got Harder, carries on the theme
of the EP Hard Times Make Me Harder, and sets up the album as an album
full of songs that are sung from the heart and set in the here and now. The
harmony backing vocals that Half Deaf Clatch has added into the songs,
for me, really bring the sound alive and along with the guitar playing, this is a complete package of acoustic blues.
The mixing of the banjo and slide guitar in A Place To Stay is excellent
and is possibly my favourite song on the album, the vocals remind me
a little of Australian Rory Ellis, but make no mistake Half Deaf Clatch
has a sound that is all his own and the past three years of playing have
paid off with this album....possibly the best acoustic blues album this year."
"Clatch's arrangements are timeless here and are very current, as
strange as that may seem for such a primitive sound..... it is the
words and themes of the songs that impress here - I particularly like
the way that Clatch's baritone voice sounds right at home in this
collection. He has released several albums and e.p. collections, and
has given away almost as much music as he has sold, but this
collection shows the maturity that he has gained over the last couple
of years - it deserves a place in any blues collection, on any blues
radio show, and on the bill of any blues festival worthy of the name
- a serious contender for Album Of The Year....
Keep on slidin' and doin' what you do Clatch!"
Gary Grainger of The Blues Show on Bishop FM - British Blues Award winning blues broadcaster
"10 tracks, all in the inimitable style of the man, but each one is totally
different from its predecessor, and unique in its own sound. Raw
acoustic blues guitar and vocals, great for driving and for those
quieter moments of introspection with a hint of melancholy.
He doesn't bare his soul, but he certainly gives an idea of what lies in there...."
Kevin Guy - Head Honcho at Cabourne Folk & Blues Festival
"Earthy, real and innovative - the blues is in safe hands."
Richard Bolland - Roots And Fusion on Pure Radio FM
"..a set of beautifully crafted authentic blues songs with a distinctively
original, and at times acutely personal approach to storytelling.
This is real life set to music, and that music is the Blues.
Jeremy Rees - Soul Of The Blues on Radio Cardiff
"..another set of wonderful original songs drawing on life's vicissitudes
and his own experiences. Down and dirty, rich and earthy, this is the
kind of blues I love."
Ashwyn Smyth - Digital Blues
"..With 'A Road Less Travelled', Half Deaf Clatch has proven
that he IS a Superman after all and that his journey has been
worthwhile. Well worth all the acclaim it is receiving. Crackin' album!!
It's truly going to be a major contender this year."
Kevin Beale - Blues On The Marsh on Channel Radio
"..a new album full of passionate blues that grabs your attention right from
the off. This isn't just raw music, it has proper good songwriting as well,
which sets it apart from some similar artists. Very much recommended, you'd
have to be fully deaf not to enjoy this one!.."
Dave Watkins - Blues Train on Frome FM