Murder Valley: a question of identity is answered and Hollywood comes calling
November 22, 2018
Who didn't smile at the story of the Dutch man who, at 69, is asking a court to grant his request to "identify" as a 45-year old so he can have more success with online dating?
The subject of this posting is also past 60 but has no problem with his age being known. And after several years of "identifying" as Jake, or occasionally Jake Lark, he has come out. Jake is John Clark, one of three members of the band Murder Valley, based in the Spanish city of Leon.
Until now, I have been calling John Jake when crediting him for the graphical images he produces so prolifically for my football site, Salut! Sunderland .
But Murder Valley - examples of whose work are included throughout this article - has changed all that. And amid gathering interest in the trio, chiefly in Spain of course, a Hollywood director learnt of its existence and liked what he heard. in fact, he liked it so much he asked permission to include it in the soundtrack of his next movie.
Zachary Cotler is a poet and novelist as well as filmmaker. His first film Maya Dardel, was picked up by MGM and Samuel Goldwyn; he says himself that it “did rather well”, including Best Director award at the 2017 Raindance Film Festival.
The plan is for Cotler to make some use of Murder Valley's song Cold Morning Light - a slice of Euro-Americana written by John and sung by him in appealingly lugubrious fashion - in a new movie, a “tragicomic ensemble about an eccentric Mexican family in California”, now at editing stage.
John's explanation follows:
In December 2016, for my 60th birthday, my wife Ana bought me a guitar.
So I started doing what I’d thought about doing for about 45 years. I learnt the basics, very raw to be honest, just plain strumming, still haven’t got around to picking.
A few months later I was introduced to Israel Quintana, a teacher of classical guitar and lover of many forms of music. We shared musical tastes and he suggested we get together to play a little.
He owns and plays a guitar-banjo, looks and sounds like a banjo but strung and tuned as a guitar. We immedietely enjoyed playing together, and I started to sing too, having never sung in public before.
A week or so later Israel’s friend Javier Ordás joined us. Javi is an accomplished guitar picker and we started to build a repertoire of folky/country songs. I would bang out the basic chords and sing while the other two concentrated on the fancy stuff.
We realised that quite a few of our songs were murder ballads so hit on the name Murder Valley. I tried my hand at writing songs, I was pleasantly surprised at the results. I’d never considered ever playing in front of a live audience but the other lads thought we were up to it and so we sought gigs in local bars.
We played our first in January of this year and we´ve played eight or nine since. We put together eight songs on our crudely home-recorded CD Rifles And Rope, four trad and four written by me.
Two of them are quite light hearted, My Baby’s Bad, on a man’s love for his crazy girlfriend/wife, and 39 Dollars, a story of drinking to forget a departed lover (trying to forget and failing).
The other two are a murder ballad parts one and two, Cold Morning Light and Blind Man’s Hill.
“It still hasn’t properly sunk in,” says John. “We don’t expect to make millions, and at this stage we don’t even know how the song is to be used in the film, it may be 10 seconds on a crackly radio in the background, or it may be the whole song, but either way it’s great exposure for our music.”
Further links to Murder Valley’s music:
* a version of this article appears at Salut! Sunderland: http://salutsunderland.com/2018/11/from-drawing-for-salut-sunderland-to-hollywood-recognition-jakes-tale/
On December 15, a few days before John's 62nd birthday, he makes his solo debut, opening for friends who have a blues band.
And to extend the Salut! Sunderland link, here is a clip with Joan Dawson chipping in with backing vocals.
Joan was co-ordinator of 5573, which became Wear Down South (newsletter of the Sunderland AFC Supporters' Association's London branch), until she moved back to the North East a few years ago. She provided invaluable help when the football site was launched in 2007 and her brother Malcolm is its deputy editor.
Joan sings and plays guitar in a band, Swap the Dog, whose music can be found at this link.