CLOVIS MANN – Clovis Mann EP
Written by John Payne
Comprised of three young Wisconsin natives, the heavy-gigging Clovis Mann can’t be bothered with recent musical trends, neither stylistic nor technological. They opt instead to take it back to the beginning, and play a potent blend of classic rock and blues, recorded live with virtually no effects or post-production. The result is a fine balance of familiarity and exploration, a largely successful attempt to stay true to bluesy rockers of old while simultaneously making it sound fresh. Ultimately, it’s a testament to the timelessness of the music that inspires them.
The influence that springs to mind when listening to the six songs on their EP Clovis Mann is Jimi Hendrix. Sometimes Clovis Mann bite pretty hard, most obviously on the spastic “War Child.” But rather than feeling like derivative rehashings, the songs genuinely reflect the ways in which Hendrix was great, resurrecting techniques not often found in the newer musical climate. The live recording, like Hendrix’s, has just the right amount of sloppiness; not enough to detract from the songs, be just enough to give them life, to let you know real people are making them, and not a recording studio. And like Hendrix, Clovis Mann are able to take the exhaustively used 12-bar blues structure to places it’s never been on songs like “Grave Digger.” Bassist Stosh Jonjak can’t sit still, his lines ambling but precise. Oftentimes during singer/guitarist Dan Walkner’s psychedelic solos, Jonjak seems to providing a counter-lead instead of merely a rhythm part. And speaking of leads, Walkner revives one of Hendrix’s most endearing techniques, playing lead lines and singing at the same time. He exploits it very effectively, most noticeably on the aforementioned “War Child.”
Most of Clovis Mann’s songs are relatively upbeat, but on “Small Town Vice” they recall the darker moods of Led Zeppelin as they prove they can play heavy without playing metal. Though the music is heavy, the lyrics are even heavier, as they follow the consequences of poor decisions made by old friends, lamenting, “The gavel is deployed / And your freedom is destroyed” before bursting into a massive riff during the chorus. It’s moving and will put your shit in check.
The only real drawback of this demo is that it’s quite short and leaves you wanting more. Fortunately, these boys play out long and often and sound even better live, and are known to sometimes have friends sit in on blues jams. This EP really only scratches their surface.
Though they do pretty much everything well, the most impressive attributes of Clovis Mann’s style are their refreshing ability to jam without sounding like a jam band, and their unflappable commitment to being thoroughly and brilliantly old-school. Though they express a longing to someday “reach that holy ground,” as far as their musical universe is concerned, if Hendrix is God they’re already there.