Mike Ross started his Clovis Limit journey back in 2019. His first chapter (The Clovis Limit, Pt. 1) showcased his impressive lyrical talents supported by an Americana soundtrack. Then a year later, he delivered The Clovis Limit, Pt. 2 ‘Transitions’ that offered some southern rock goodness. Both received nothing but praise as he showed off the range and depth of his musical talents. Not only did his storytelling qualities shine, but his guitar and arrangement skills stood out too.
His journey continues with his latest album, The Clovis Limit Tennessee Transition. It is a release that offers another side to his work. He says, “The thinking behind the session was to take songs from both halves of my Clovis Limit duology and re-imagine them from a solo performance perspective. The Tennessee Transition is about the most authentic interpretation of me as a singer and guitarist that I can offer. What I’ve ended up with is four songs from each album. Plus a version of my old song “Fixing to Die” and a few deep Delta blues cuts. I wanted to have a ‘companion work’ to my two Clovis albums: something that would give the listener a bit of an idea as to what influences me as a writer and solo performer, and I think the finished product illustrates that very well”.
As The Clovis Limit Tennessee Transition begins, it opens up with “Driftwood”. Instantly its sound grabs the listeners attention. Ross counts in before he lets his guitar sing as his steel strings resonate a bluesy mood. It doesn’t take long for his vocals to jump in. When he does, his story begins with “like stacks of floating driftwood / that’s all we really are / we’re made from piss & vinegar / and tiny bits of stars”. As the song progresses, his six-string creates a laid back mood, but delivering it in an intricate manner. It also gets a moment to shine further with a captivating solo moment.
As it’s an alternative take of a track from his 2019 release, fans will begin to compare. It’s difficult not to do while listening to The Clovis Limit Tennessee Transition in full. Personally, its overall sound has a raw and natural feel which ticks all the right boxes. Especially hearing his voice and guitar intertwine harmoniously creates a winning chemistry that will continue throughout the rest of the album.
“Grow In Your Garden” slows things down as Ross delivers an outstanding vocal performance. Due to its stripped-back sound, he lets his voice take the spotlight as he shares his words with so much emotion. At times he adds a little passion to his words to give them more of an impact. No lines showcase this more than, “Never ever ever ever ever run away from a love / always try to keep a hand on the heart of a love / cos if you stop to think you’re ever gonna stand apart from that love / the love that might carry you, away, far away.” There is something special about how he leaves space between words, letting the song breathe, enhancing the mood. “Young Man” has a difficult job to follow an impressive moment. But, it manages to hold its own.
As much as the talents of Mike Ross impressed during his ‘Clovis Limit duology’, The Clovis Limit Tennessee Transition is his finest work to date
When you think you know what this album has to offer, Ross changes the tone yet again with “Blown Away”. Instantly his guitar is in a playful mood as it makes the listener tap along to its vibe. It’s difficult not to get caught up in its happy go lucky vibe. Next, he creates an excellent cover of Bukka White’s “Shake Em’ On Down”. He keeps close to the original, letting its bluesy soul work its magic.
The album reaches a moment when he delivers an alternative take from his rockier The Clovis Limit, Pt. 2 ‘Transitions’. His first choice is “None Of Your Business”. Personally, this is the only song that loses something, as the original’s attitude is what made it stand out so much. However, it does not disappoint. Ross’ guitar skills stand out yet again with “Don’t Say A Word”. The way he slides around the fret is such a pleasure on the ears. As much as the vocals are in fine form, it is his six-string friend that steals this show.
“The Only Place You Ever Take Me Is Down” has more of a blues-rock vibe. His guitar is creating its usual magic, but the vocals have more of a growl than the others. It helps to give the album a little something different. His fingers dance around his guitar to create another captivating moment. He then lets his storytelling qualities shine yet again with “Leviathan”. He does so, with the lines “came to me in the morning and hit me like a tonne of lead / while I shout, and I scream this impossible dream / has been turning out my blue eyes red.”
The story is not as long as others, but it is about lyrical quality, not quantity. Between its verses, the music flows naturally, enhancing the mood. It all comes together to create another must-hear moment. Ross then closes the album with another cover of a bluesy classic. This time, it’s “Screamin’ & Hollerin’ The Blues” by Charlie Patton. Again, he does not mess with its arrangement, but his vocals give it a modern-day feel.
For those who purchase The Clovis Limit Tennessee Transition on CD, you get the bonus of three additional tracks. These include “Fixing to Die” (from Spindrift album), a cover of Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues”, and another alternative take of “Young Man”. All offering more bluesy goodness, with “Fixin’ To Die” standing out the most. But, it does not matter which version you hear as it is still music of the highest quality by Mike Ross. Just give this release a listen, as it will not disappoint.