The Clarks: Robert James, Dave Minarik Jr., Scott Blasey and Greg Joseph.
By Ryan Petrovich / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
At a time when radio is dominated by hip-hop and bubble gum, it's refreshing to hear a local band stay true to its roots and bash out classic rock 'n' roll.
With: Jimmer Podrasky.
Where: Stage AE, North Shore.
When: Doors at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets: $25 advance; $28 day of show; www.ticketmaster.com.
Pittsburgh's own The Clarks -- frontman Scott Blasey, bassist Greg Joseph, guitarist Robert James and drummer David Minarik Jr. -- bring back their old-fashioned rock sound with their newest album, "Feathers and Bones," the first new material since 2009's "Restless Days."
It isn't so much that it takes five years to make a batch of new songs. Rather, the members of The Clarks have lives outside of the stage and studio. They have families to take care of, like Mr. Blasey, who has three young daughters.
"We're older now, with families," the singer says. "It takes time to write songs, but it's difficult to get together."
When the band, which formed in 1986, was younger and single, members would put in weeks of recording and work 12-hour days.
"We don't have that luxury anymore," Mr. Blasey says. "We started this album in 2013 with the intent of releasing it last summer.
"When we go in to make a new album, I sit down daily with a guitar and work at it," he explains. "You can't wait for inspiration to strike -- maybe it's the fourth or fifth day and, boom, something pops up. It's like a puzzle. You have to put it together and work at it."
The album is extremely personal and emotional, he says, because during the process the band members experienced an extraordinary amount of loss of family and friends in their lives.
"I lost my father last summer," Mr. Blasey says. "It was amazing how many funerals we attended during this."
"Broken Dove" channels the emotions of losing his father, the song's emotive lyrics pulling at the audience's feelings right from the first note: "Broke down the other day/Like when you died on that summer day/And all the sky was gray/And now my hope is gone/My love is singing an angel's song."
"It's really hard for me to listen to that song," Mr. Blasey says. "First couple times I heard it, I cried like a baby."
Although "Broken Dove" is driven by his father's death, Mr. Blasey took a different direction with the narrative.
"I took the angle of a guy who loses his lover. At the core of it though, it has my dad all over it."
The title track mourns the loss of someone close, in this case Mr. Joseph's mother-in-law.
While the lyrics communicate sorrow -- "Those days are lost in space/Time goes/You know I know/All that's left is feathers and bones" -- the song's progression gives it a sense of hope and uplift.
"We didn't start the album with that intent [of loss and death]," says Mr. Blasey. "These things happened, and it just kind of seeped into the lyrics."
Another song that hits home for Mr. Blasey is "Take Care of You," about his three daughters. "Let me start by saying that I love you/You know I would do anything for you," the track vows.
In terms of sound, Mr. Blasey credits the band's producer Sean McDonald. "He was really important to the recording process," Mr. Blasey says.
The singer compares the making of this album to constructing a house.
"I came in with a blueprint, Greg came in with the wall-hangings and what not, [so] we all had parts. We were like, 'Here, Sean, build a house.' "
Overall, Mr. Blasey hopes that the personal experiences and passion put into it will move the listeners.
"Music can enlist emotion," Mr. Blasey says. "I hope people can get a sense of relief from anxiety. Life gets harder. Music is a healing thing. I get satisfaction from people telling me that our music helps them get through something."
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