Mike McClure scores with sold-out McAlester show

·6 min read

Sep. 12—As Jeremy Beaver of Spaceship Earth introduced singer Mike McClure to a sold-out audience Saturday night, he recalled the first time he heard McClure as a member of the Red Dirt Music band The Great Divide.

"When I heard The Great Divide, I realized this is not my Daddy's country music," Beaver said of the Stillwater-based group that had its first national album release in 1998, with McClure singing lead and writing the cream of the band's songs.

As he stepped up to the microphone, McClure introduced himself to the McAlester audience with a brief comment of his own.

"I'm Mike McClure and I'm glad to be here," he said to a rousing ovation.

McClure followed with a set that included his solo works, duets with his wife, Chrislyn Rose Lawrence as the duo Crow and Gazelle, and a crowd-pleasing series of Great Divide songs. Along the way, he drew an enthusiastic response from his longtime fans and some new ones as well.

He opened his show with "Dings," from his 2002 debut solo album titled "Twelve Pieces." When McClure sings about "dings," he's not talking about a tiny scratch or depression on a a new pickup truck, but something that goes a little deeper.

"Cause it's the trials and tribulations, all the absurd situations that the living brings," McClure sang. "And it's the trying and believing, there'll be flying after grieving; and in the end we all must earn our wings; I got a good ole soul; it's just got a few dings."

McClure performed his songs with an acoustic guitar, but that's all he needed — whether strumming, adding some melodic licks or ripping out the occasional leads while the sound of the previously-played chords echoed through the venue.

McClure's set included a song he said is the favorite of his daughter.

"Out of all the songs I've written, she likes one of them, a Great Divide song," he said. McClure then picked some evocative Spanish-style runs on his acoustic guitar as an intro to his song, "San Isabella."

"Up in the mountains of San Isabella, so high I looked down on the moon," he sang. "Stars fell below me, I was so close to heaven, but I knew the sun would come up soon."

McClure's song of romantic longing put his way with a lyric to evocative use:

"I saw her face in the sun coming up in New Mexico; I heard her voice in a river that ran through Durango," he sang of the Colorodo city near the New Mexico border.

"She has a way that I've never known but I cannot forget," sang McClure. "She is everywhere around me, I just haven't found her yet."

McClure sang another Great Divide favorite, "Break in the Storm," resulting in another spirited audience response.

"It's great to be back in Oklahoma," said McClure. Now residing in Seymour, Texas, McClure is originally from Tecumseh, Oklahoma. He helped put together The Great Divide while attending OSU and until relatively recently had a recording studio in Ada.

He told about how he used to hang out at The Farm — a reference to a rural residence near Stillwater known for its many jam sessions that included many who would later make their mark in Red Dirt and/or Americana music, including Jimmy LaFave and Tom Skinner.

McClure used his acoustic guitar for everything from churning up energetic faster numbers, to a kinder, gentler approach on the ballads, such as "Wildflower" — who he advises to "don't go changing, just to please somebody else."

Chrislyn Rose Lawrence joined McClure for several songs for their Crow and Gazelle duo, adding harmonies to the mix and taking some lead vocals as well — leading to anticipation for the Crew and Gazelle album they're working on putting together.

The Great Divide song "Yesterday Road" brought yet another enthusiastic audience response. While the original recording included everything from fiddles to drums, McClure conjured up the song's energy with just his acoustic guitar. As the song neared its end, McClure gave the audience a nod and many boisterously sang along on the workless "Da da-dat-da-da" part as the song's outro approached.

That's among several times during the night that McClure,who certainly had his own own style, seemed to channel his inner Van Morrison — the Irish singer McClure says is among his personal favorites.

McClure also sang "Good Side" — the debut single from The Great Divide's new album "Providence," set for a late October release. McClure said it's the first new single to include all of The Great Divide's original members in 20 years.

For the last part of his set, McClure took requests which included a Great Divide fan favorite, "Wile E. Coyote" — and yes, it's that coyote, nemesis of the Road Runner.

McClure's song doesn't identify with that lightning-fast bird, but with Wile E. Coyote and his never-say-die spirit.

"Now all them near-misses, they ain't your fault, cause that Acme Company, they been ripping you off," McClure sang, "Been sending you dynamite that won't detonate. And jet roller skates with a bad set of brakes."

McClure offered his own brand of encouragement to the resilient canine: "But you're doing alright, things are coming your way. You're just an old coyote, but every dog has his day."

Following his last song, McClure stepped off the stage and headed toward the front door. Some fans started a chant of "one more" but they were too late — McClure had already left the building.

He wasn't planning a rapid getaway though. Outside on the sidewalk, he stuck around and talked with the fans and admirers who approached him, while Chrislyn Lawrence held the pup they recently rescued on a leash and the lucky dog rested on the sidewalk

"I've been following you around for years," a fan told McClure.

Most congratulated him on an excellent show. Others asked to take photos with him while others stopped for a brief chat. He graciously accommodated them all.

McClure told the News-Capital a couple of weeks ago that he's looking forward to doing more live performances, which were vastly reduced for all musicians during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Judging by the audience response to his McAlester show, McClure's fans are looking forward to those live performances just as much as he is.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.