Artists: Mark Billingham and My Darling Clementine
Date: Wednesday 18th November 2015
Venue: Music Room, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Reviewer: Graham Holland, Liverpool Acoustic
Take one bestselling, award-winning, country-loving crime writer, add the UK’s top country music duo, and you get a match made in country heaven.
Music Room filling up nicely
I’ve been hooked on the stories of Mark Billingham ever since I read his first Detective Inspector Tom Thorne novel Sleepyhead in 2001. In the books (we’re up to 13 now) DI Thorne shares Billingham’s love of country music: no, not the nu-country wailings of Tim McGraw, Clint Black and Faith Hill, but REAL country as preached by Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette and Johnny Cash.
At one particular book signing someone said to Billingham “You’re into country music, right? You should check out My Darling Clementine.” So he did, and became an instant fan. After buying the duo’s albums and stalking them at gigs they started talking. Eventually a collaboration was suggested, and The Other Half was born.
My Darling Clementine open the show
Mark Billingham opened the evening at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall’s impressive new Music Room by recounting the story of how The Other Half came to be, before introducing the musical stars of the show My Darling Clementine. Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish warmed up the audience with a trio of songs including Departure Lounge (from How Do You Plead?) and King of the Carnival (from The Reconciliation?).
Billingham then joined the duo on stage for the main event. Standing at a lectern, dressed in black (naturally!), Mark narrated his tales of love, loss, murder and redemption as seen through the eyes of Marcia, a waitress at a rundown Memphis bar. Throughout the course of the evening we’re introduced to a selection of the bar’s regulars and find out, often accidentally, what their stories are. The chapters are accompanied by songs performed by My Darling Clementine, each one falling into place as part of a seamless narrative.
Mark Billingham narates
We meet Paul, recently single, desperately putting on a brave face (“No complaints from me… Life’s pretty damn good”) while his former ‘other half’ is seen pushing a trolley round the local grocery store with her new fella looking far from heartbroken. Cue: “No Heart In This Heartache”.
Then there’s Donna. “I visit someone. Up at Whiteville.” Eventually Marcia discovers that Donna is visiting the man who killed her abusive husband. “I’d do it again. It needed doing.” says the inmate in orange overalls. Cue: “No Matter What Tammy Said (I Won’t Stand By Him)”.
Then there’s the tale of George, a blonde girl, and a mousey girl called Alison. We’re told about Ruby who was seen meeting a guy with a Chevy outside the Tulip Hotel. And Ray, who just wants to drink. “Thirsty, not hungry.” Interesting, well-crafted vignettes one and all, and each with a perfect musical accompaniment.
And we mustn’t forget Marcia, longing for a call from Jimmy who she was sure was ‘the one’ when they parted after one night together… nine months ago. He had her number, but she didn’t have his. Suffice it to say that unlike the majority of country songs, Marcia’s story had a happy ending!
Mark Billingham and My Darling Clementine
To finish off the night, My Darling Clementine treated us to George Jones’ A Good Year For The Roses, the Jones/Pitney song That’s All It Took, and Hank William’s biggest hit Your Cheating Heart. For the encore, Michael and Lou were joined on vocals and guitar by Mark who treated us to the Ray Price classic Heartaches By The Number.
The Other Half was an extremely entertaining and enjoyable night of top-class storytelling in words and music, and one that I’ll remember for a long time (I bought the CD!).
Graham Holland is the owner and editor of the Liverpool Acoustic website, and runs Liverpool Acoustic’s award-winning live music events with local musician Stuart Todd. In real life he’s a Web Development Officer, has been producing podcasts on a regular basis since July 2006, and runs a number of websites for other organisations. He lives in Wavertree with his husband and their cat Xiao Hei.