THE CLIFFHANGER PROJECT
What do Michael Martin Murphy, B. W. Stephenson, Edie Brickell, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jimmie Vaughan and Stevie Ray Vaughan all have in common? The answer: They all came from the same music-rich community in Dallas, Texas – the area known as . . . Oak Cliff.
Why this populace south of the Trinity River became such a hotbed for musical talent in the mid-to-late 1960s is still a mystery. But during that era, Oak Cliff served as an incubator for scores of hungry young artists to hone their talents and find their musical footing. They played at venues like Candy’s flare, Cooper’s, Paper Moon, Jaylee’s Head Shop, The Maverick, The Anchor and the Rocket Skating Palace from the Kiest Park Pavilion, the stages at River Lake and Oak Cliff country clubs, as well as area high school gymnasiums, these musicians performed their way from one gig to another and formed the backbone of what continues today as the Oak Cliff music fraternity. From this unique group of same-generation Oak Cliff musicians, several have gone to achieve some of the contemporary music world’s most prestigious awards and honors.
Along with the afore mentioned top tier musicians, there were others who did not gain the same level of recognition or garner the same awards but were nevertheless a significant part of the Oak Cliff music community development. One of those performers, native Cliffster ROBERT WARE (who played with Glenn Hughes and the late Buddy Miles and musically collaborated with Black Oak Arkansas) acted on his visions of creating an all-Oak Cliff music CD, to showcase the talent and resourcefulness of his lifelong contemporaries. Ware spent over five years gathering the resources and putting together the talent necessary to produce this labor of love – The Cliffhanger Project, consisting of all Oak Cliff musicians and vocalists, with five of the 13 tracks written by Oak Cliff musicians. Additionally, all but two of the production team members are either native Cliffites or Oak Cliff-related.
Gathered on The Cliffhanger Project are guitarists ROCKY ATHAS (who plays with the legendary John Mayall), JERRY DON BRANCH (The Stratoblasters), CHRISTIAN BROOKS, DAVID BROWN, MICHAEL JEFFREY (who played and recorded with Jimmy Buffet), MIKE McCULLOUGH, RUSSELL STONECYPHER and JIMMY WALLACE (The Stratoblasters co-founder and now owner of the Dallas International Guitar Festival), with WARE on bass. Drummers include MIKE GAGE, CRAIG MARLOW, JACK MILLER and CHRISTIAN BROOKS. While most of the guitarists sing on their own individual tracks, vocalist LARRY SAMFORD is featured on three of the selections. As an added bonus, ATHAS, BROOKS, JEFFREY and WALLACE played on some of their friends’ pieces, lending an additional layer of support and camaraderie on the project – a long-standing Oak Cliff tradition.
The musical maturity and depth of talent possessed by these musicians is reflected in the rich tones and catchy tempos of each track, producing a treasure trove of Lone Star blues mixed with Texas blues-rock. A cadre of guitar magic from this conglomeration of veteran Oak Cliff musicians, composers and songwriters, The Cliffhanger Project is a cadre of down-home, toe-tapping selections, which emerge from the wellspring of talent that is . . . Oak Cliff, Texas.