Sound familiar? Clarks play to the status quo

When I listen to The Clarks’ new LP, Another Happy Ending, I see a crowded bar somewhere in the mid-west, with farm-hands sitting next to pretty farmers’ daughters swilling their Bud Dry, the whole place enveloped in a general air of boozy congeniality.
Over in one corner, The Clarks are running through their regular Tuesday night set, surrounded by a few interested onlookers who stand out from the rest of the nodding pack. The Clarks are the best band in the county, hands-down, and their melodious and catchy roots-influenced rock always brings in the crowds, a mix of fans and those just looking to have a good time.
The Clarks’ real story does not quite match the mental image painted by their music, but hey, Bowie wasn’t from outer space, either. Vocalist/guitarist Scott Blasey, lead guitarist Robert James, bassist Greg Joseph, and drummer David Minarik Jr. met when they were students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Like the conscientious young men their music seems to portray (no swearing on the entire LP!), they waited till graduation to pursue their musical dreams: They moved to Pittsburgh and began their regional rise to fame.
Another Happy Ending is the group’s fifth studio album, and opens with a jangly mid-tempo rocker, “Maybe.” Blasey begins the tune with a drawn breath before belting out the fine but not overly complex opening line, “Maybe I should turn and walk away/Maybe I should run, but I’ll probably bow my head and pray.”
Wawa guitar competes with sustained chords over the stereo spectrum, backed by percussion that sounds a little Graceland-esque (Paul Simon) for at least the first verse. Blasey’s vocals have an uncanny resemblance to a more conservative Royston Langdon from the early ‘90s pop/rock group Spacehog, whose first and only hit, In the Meantime, stole many hearts, including my own.
Well-crafted pop songs like “On Saturday,” and “Love Is What You Need” should please lovers of Train, John Mayr, and the like (incidentally, two bands the group has performed with), while tracks like “Superstar” have enough bite to interest those with interests that deviate slightly more from the musical norm.
I had never heard of The Clarks until a few weeks ago, but from the sound of their latest release I’d place a bet on an upward trajectory for the group’s career in the near future. Their totally inoffensive brand of country tinged pop/rock has always been popular, especially at our present musical crossroads, and these guys are pretty damn good at what they do.
So go, have a good time, and pound a cool one for me. I’ll be washing my hair on Thursday.

The Clarks perform with special guest Pete Schmidt at Starr Hill, March 13. $10/$8, 9pm.