The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

January 3, 2014

Red dirt pioneer Mike McClure to perform in Miami

MIAMI, Okla. — It might be harder to catch Mike McClure on stage in the future. He's enjoying life as a producer and engineer. Part of the reason involves the dreaded "O-word."

"I still go out on weekends and play, but the older I get, the more I'd rather stay home," said McClure, the singer and guitarist considered one of the pioneers of the red dirt movement. "I've done the road thing for more than 20 years, and I still enjoy it. But it's always a transition from home to the road, then it's time to leave again. I'm gonna get more selective in 2014 with how much I play, probably closer to home."

The main reason McClure is staying close to home is because of his home studio and the work he does there. After a partner financially backed out of a record label he started, McClure began producing and engineering for other musicians, including bands such as Damn Quails, Cole Porter Band, Chad Sullins, The Last Call Coalition and others.

There are other reasons: McClure said he's working with a lot of newer acts that have yet to break big. But they are coming to his home studio in Ada, Okla., a four-acre property that features plenty of trees and nature in the middle of a city. McClure said studio time is booked solid for the next three months with many newer bands.

"These are a bunch of newbies," McClure said. "We're catching guys just getting started, and their excitement rubs off on you. It keeps you from getting jaded."

Red dirt

McClure is one of the founding members of The Great Divide, one of the pioneers of the red dirt country music movement. While still a member of the band, he released a solo project in 2002 and also produced albums for bands such as Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Boland and The Stragglers, and The Turnpike Troubadours.

But before that band, McClure knew all about the red dirt scene developing in Oklahoma, which was different from the Texas-based red dirt that was popularized by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Outlaws.

Inspired by Bob Childers, Red Dirt Rangers and Tom Skinner in the late '80s, McClure learned everything he could from the generous musicians.

"Those were the guys I looked up to," McClure said. "That was the cool thing going. It was my first time around songwriters, and they were being encouraging. Not like the petty jealousy (and) rock Ôn' roll crap that has been around."

Red dirt has been tricky to define, but most consider it an edgier, more indie-hearted form of country with healthy influences of rock, bluegrass, Western swing and even blues Ñ all without the high-polished gloss of Nashville.

Influenced by the rock of the '80s and artists such as Steve Earle, McClure and Great Divide brought more of a rock influence to the sound. The band signed with Atlantic Records in the late '90s, and McClure left the band in 2003.

Since then, he has written music for himself and others, including the Damn Quails. His latest album, "50 Billion," was the first released two years ago under the now-defunct label.

Commonly identified with the red dirt genre, McClure said he's happy to be a part of it. The only drawback, McClure said, is that every band from the area seems to get plastered with the same red dirt label, thus diluting the sound.

"I think it was Kerouac who said that once a scene gets a name, it's over," McClure said. "In the true red dirt scene, everyone did their own thing. Boland sounded different than Cross Canadian Ragweed. Great Divide sounded different than Bob Childress. I'm glad there's a name for it, but the only negative is that it's gotten watered down all the time."

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