Many an urban musician has spent time scouring listings on Craigslist in search of the McCartney to their Lennon, the John Paul White to their Joy Williams. This author among them, and with results mixed at best. Some jamming, a little collaboration, a few modest gigs. Rarely something long-term, though, let alone a genuinely satisfying collaboration.
Others have had more success. Meet The Clementines, a Kansas City duo consisting of Nicole Springer and Tim Jenkins. Their project began when Tim responded to Nicole’s ad, and, they say, the chemistry was apparent the first time they played together.
Before long, what started with cover songs and open mics became a project focused on original material, oiled by a deep creative complementarity. Now with a portfolio of more than 20 songs – all written within the last year – this prolific duo is beginning to attract more attention – regionally, to be sure, but also, thanks to a growing YouTube presence and the recent release of their EP (buy it here), from new fans in far-flung places like here in New York.
The Clementines, who get their name from the main character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, are fueled by Springer’s .50 caliber voice. Resonant, versatile, and infused with passion, it’s her sometimes slightly rough-around-the-edges quality that allows Springer to move comfortably from an alt-Spanish vibe (a la Shoot Away, off the EP) to a still-fresh grunge sound (Muddy are the Waters – video below).
If Springer’s vocals generate the horsepower, it’s Jenkins’ guitar work that provides the steering. Mobile on the fretboard, his phrasing generates that second melodic line that’s so important to successful songwriting, especially in its acoustic expression. The symbiosis between the two starts in the workshop: Nicole brings her vocal and rhythm guitar melodies to Tim, who creates a lead part over them. This in turn inspires her vocals, she explains, a process of feedback and mutual influence evident in hooky, memorable tunes like Of My Own (studio version below – also available live on YouTube).
With their newly released EP, The Clementines are primed to take another step forward. And the quality of their work is keeping up with the exposure: a tour through their YouTube offerings demonstrates a clear evolution in the subtlety of their craft, with a seemingly ever-widening diversity of styles and increasingly interesting rhythmic interplay between their guitar parts. I’d like to hear more emphasis on vocal harmony – which has added a welcome texture when they’ve used it – as part of their evolution of which I’ll continue to enjoy watching the unfolding.
Lastly, their single Shoot Away, the first track on their EP