Current CD

The Great Divide

From their first window rattling, three-chord practice session in a rural Oklahoma Quonset hut, the four members of The Great Divide never wavered from their commitment to original music, confident that the country music market eventually would accept powerful, heartfelt lyrics intertwined with their distinctive country-rock sound. Some six years later, a national recording contract confirmed that belief in the form of the ground breaking "Break In The Storm."

Now, with "Revolutions," their second major-label release, The Great Divide continues to push the musical envelope, wrapping thought provoking lyrics around the so-called Red Dirt sound of Stillwater, Oklahoma. "This is the sound we've been trying to define the past six years," said Mike McClure, the band's primary songwriter and lead guitarist/vocalist. "The previous records, we found things we might have written or recorded differently. There are pretty much no apologies with this one. We wanted to make it for our fans and for us. There's not a song on there we're not happy with."

"Revolutions" marks the third recording project relying on the production expertise of Lloyd Maines, the legendary Texas steel player who has turned his considerable musical talents toward the studio, producing projects by the likes of Jerry Jeff Walker, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Charlie Robison, and James McMurtry.

"They've grown by leaps and bounds," Maines said. "When they first came in to the studio in Lubbock, you knew there was a lot of raw talent, but (in spite of the rawness) they had already developed a following at live shows. I had never seen a live show until after we finished this last record. I sat and played with them and I could see what's so appealing live. Over the last six years they've grown so much musically and they've learned to play their respective instruments much better. By this one, they had it down."

Maines adds his distinctive touch on steel and guitar, with Richard Bowden (long a fixture of the Texas music scene and currently of the Austin Lounge Lizards) on fiddle, cello and viola, and Riley Osborne on the Hammond B3 organ. Bobbie Nelson (well-known as a staple of brother Willie's band) adds the perfect piano touch on the gospel-sounding "Mr. Devil," while veteran Texas writer Ray Wylie Hubbard lends his easily identifiable vocals on the ghost track, "Rearview Mirror."

"They're definitely not your cookie cutter, formula country band," Maines said. "They have a sound of their own. I really think their sound is based around that four-piece sound. I think we captured that a lot better than on the other two (albums), which had a lot more over dubbing. I feel like we kept a little closer to the bone, a little more true to form of what The Great Divide sounds like live. There's enough steel guitar and fiddle to appease country traditionalists, but any way you cut it, it's still The Great Divide."

In a label-conscious industry, The Great Divide always has been more concerned with the music, rather than its definition. Americana, alternative country, outlaw, country-rock - it all fits at times. The sound is definitely country, but the songs reflect a wide range of lyrical influences, from the classic blue-collar imagery of Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp to the countrified earthiness of Guy Clark or Steve Earle. "I just think it shows maturity," said McClure, who wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 13 songs on "Revolutions." "I feel my song writing has gotten stronger."

McClure honed his song writing skills at "The Farm," a dilapidated farmhouse on the outskirts of Stillwater that served as a creative haven for a wide variety of songwriters, poets and wandering hobos. Legendary holdup man Willie Sutton, when asked why he robbed banks, replied, "because that's where the money is." For similar reasons, McClure naturally gravitated toward the eclecticism of "The Farm." Whether around the campfire or next to an old piano sharing space with a pinball machine and a Grateful Dead poster, McClure absorbed the nuances of song writing from a Who's Who of local writers, learning the distinction between writing from the heart or for the wallet.

The intimacy of the local music scene eventually brought McClure, a guitar-playing scholarship student, in touch with a trio of part-time musicians who knew each other from the rodeo circuit. Brothers Scotte Lester, a guitar- playing firefighter, and drummer J.J. Lester had worked briefly with McClure in an early garage band and agreed to join McClure in the studio to record demos of his original songs. Bassist Kelley Green, finishing his degree in Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University, joined the session lineup. In the process of recording McClure's songs, The Great Divide was born.

After an inaugural live performance at a steer roping event, the fledgling band began working the college bar scene of Stillwater, eventually landing a monthly gig at the Wormy Dog Saloon near the Oklahoma State campus. With the Wormy Dog as a base, The Great Divide immediately began to broaden its musical horizons. Their first performance at In Cahoots in Oklahoma City was greeted by a busload of familiar student faces, the result of a charter trip in support of the new local favorites. When legendary songwriter Gary P. Nunn invited the band to appear at his summer musical festival in southern Oklahoma, they not only appeared on stage, they helped build it.

While J.J., Scotte, and Kelley devoted their time to booking, managing, and tending to the daily tasks of the music business, Mike continued to metaphorically ink their stories of life on the road. Armed with faith and an all-for-one philosophy, the band set out to overcome all obstacles in their path. As word spread and the fan base grew, momentum and a 1984 Chevy Suburban carried The Great divide to 125 club dates a year throughout Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. The arena stage called in the form of opening slots for the likes of Willie Nelson, Tracy Lawrence, the Dixie Chicks, Charlie Daniels, and Chris LeDoux. All the while, original material was the order of the day. The limited number of covers were energized tributes to Waylon Jennings and David Allen Coe or regional favorites such as Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark and Robert Earl Keen. Clubs in search of a Top 40 cover band filled their bills with someone else.

For their first recording project, The Great Divide turned to Maines, who fine tuned the initial effort of an inexperienced band, while leaving their sound intact. The resulting "Goin' For Broke," released on their own Broken Records label, sold more than 10,000 copies, a phenomenal figure for a band with no national distribution, little airplay and a stubborn refusal to play lightweight cover material.

In 1994, The Great Divide successfully followed with its second independent release, again teaming with Maines on "Break In The Storm." After opening for Chris LeDoux in Stillwater, the band gave LeDoux's son, Clay, and stage manager Frank Neville, copies of the new CD, which eventually found its way into the hands of a Lincoln, Nebraska DJ, Dave Steel. The song "Never Could" found its way into heavy rotation and "Break In The Storm" became the top selling CD in local music stores.

"We were always told we had to do Top 40 country, not be a four piece band, and that I had to put on a hat," McClure said. "with 'Break In The Storm' we said let's just do what we do and be true to what we'er about. However far that leads us, that's where we're going to go." That attitude eventually led them far enough down the musical road where full-time jobs and part-time musical careers switched places. Concentrating solely on music, the band piled mile after mile on the trusty Suburban. If The Great Divide could play original music, there was no place too obscure, no club too far off the beaten path, no dot on the map too small. They played music, sold CDs and built a following the only way they knew how, through commitment, sacrifice and old fashioned hard work. They paid homage to the tradition of country music without being bound by its limitations. They rewrote the formula rather than bow to the format.

In industry terms, The Great Divide created the proverbial buzz, which caught the attention of Atlantic Records president Rick Blackburn. A Nashville meeting was squeezed between road warrior dates in Kentucky and the Lake Erie boating island of Put-In-Bay, Ohio, where the band had established a wildly enthusiastic following in the 2,500 seat Beer Barrel Saloon. Atlantic Records executives were so impressed with "Break In The Storm," they picked up the project for national release. More importantly, The Great Divide was told to play their music, their way on future releases.

"Revolutions" is just that. Their music, their way, from the heart, played with passion. After all, The Great Divide is confident the country music market will accept powerful, heartfelt lyrics intertwined with a distinctive country-rock sound.

"I have listened over and over to 'Revolutions' from The Great Divide and it has to be one of the best country albums of the whole year. This is the sound of this generation. They know how to touch the soul of the young country listeners of this decade and it will be this music that will usher in the new century of country.
The Great Divide's sound is raw country music from the heart with no apologies to anybody having a hard time trying to place them into neat categories. The search for love is insightfully conveyed in 'San Isabella'. The tales from the dorm are accurately sung in 'College Days'. West Texas sentiments are echoed in 'Amarillo Windmill'. 'Dragon's Heart and 'Help Me' are outstanding tunes of timeless feelings that are sung in today's country music parlance; straight-ahead and confident.
This is an album that will be played over and over again in college dorms, dusty towns and in the hearts of all true country fans. Merle Haggards' soul has met its match with Robert Earl Keens' style in the unique sound of The Great Divide."
-Billy Joe Gabriel
Ft. Worth Gazette

"This band emerged from pedernales Studi in Austin with an album of high quality country songs that have a loose feel that you almost never hear coming out of Music Row. Perhaps the fact that none of Nashville's "usual suspect" players and songwriters are present is one of the reasons the album is so strong. If you are a true country fan, I highly recommend The Great Divide."
-Charles Earle
In Review

"If Bob Dylan had grown up in a rural Oklahoma town near a land-grant college, he might've broken through with a sound something like The Great Divide sets on 'Revolutions'. This is a terrific album where the college slacker meets the blue-collar honky-tonker and each not only learns from each other, but also has a swell time doing it. There's humor here and insight, but most of all there's more soul, integrity and freshness than in any disc I've heard from a major label country act in quite some time."
-John Wooley
Tulsa World

"The Great Divide are a satisfying band, as this is the sound they've been trying to capture for six years. It's a fresh approach, defying categorization. You'll find an interesting voice in Mike McClure; solid strong writing and an airy feel to the production. 'San Isabella', 'Dragon's Heart' and 'Nowhere Woman' are a good place to begin. The Great Divide are pursuing the music of their heart. It should do yours good, too. They will be the very band to break "Americana', a sound that is so deserving."
-Jesse Scott

"Oklahoma's The Great Divide are an inspiration for every twang-and-rock garage band that fears Nashville would squelch its home grown integrity. As with In The Storm, Revolutions is produced by Austin's Lloyd Maines who allows the band to revel in its loose Jimmy Buffett-meets-Steve Earle sound. This is an album that should help The Great Divide cross out of honky-tonks and into the arenas."
Mario Tarradell
The Dallas Morning News

"I have worked with a lot of artists and these guys continue to amaze me with how down to earth they are and how they relate to the listeners. They have a great original sound that sold the audience in Sturgis. The winners were excited, the show was fantastic and that's what makes being in this business worth while."
-Patrick Combs
KFGE "Froggie 98" Lincoln, Nebraska

"Not only was it a great show, but we got to meet our hero and hang out with him. After the show we went out on his bus and when he handed me his guitar 'Trigger' I played him a few songs. It was one day we will never forget. It's going to be hard to top that."
-Mike McClure
Lead Vocals/The Great Divide


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