Clay Melton – Back To Blue
I’ve listened several times & keep coming to the same conclusion. Clay Melton is indeed a blues-rock virtuoso on lead guitar – no denying he has talent & skill. I like his sincere raspy voice & wicked guitar approach. His material isn’t poor it’s just — standard, formula blues played achingly beautiful.
Performance-wise Melton postures through every evocative blues locomotive drive that’s been done for decades by Alvin Lee, Roy Buchanan, John Campbell, & many others who had what Clay still lacks (for now) — unique personality & character. That’s not found through intense practice & doesn’t come out between the fingers as much as it should seep from the soul.
I like Clay Melton, anyway. Yes, he’s critically acclaimed & should be. But if he were to add to his exceptional guitar playing a more creative approach to his lyrical subjects, the blues showcase may come across as a more truly original entity. As riveting as Carlos Santana who had to swim through the deep skills of Clapton, Hendrix, Al Wilson & Michael Bloomfield.
The opener to “Say That You Love Me,” is similar to the dark-hued fabric of Robin Trower’s 70s blues on “Bridge of Sighs.” When Eric Clapton plays you know it’s him. If Hendrix plays, you feel it’s him. If B.B. King or Buddy Guy play – it’s obvious. Stevie Ray Vaughn had it, so did Trower, & Roy Buchanan. But Clay lacks that signature sound. Right now, he emulates excellently & impressively from many deep wells.
I like Melton’s tone, the command of his ax, his youth – he’s only 26. The Louisiana-born, Texas-based bluesman (he is) doesn’t need seasoning but guidance. Back To Blue EP (Drops July 23–Watchtower Entertainment). 5-red hot cuts that effectively introduce Clay to blues aficionados (but for how long?). Years ago, Shuggie Otis was to be a giant — but he fizzled out.
The guitar’s sharp, but Clay still doesn’t cut deep. He needs blues tantalizing arrangements that focus deeper on bluesier subjects, lyrically. Sing in a manner that doesn’t imitate. Develop signature intonation, phrasing, enunciation & inflection.
“Texas Cyclone (Live),” is exciting. Drummer Zach Grindle is tight. But the genuineness of Clay isn’t threaded through Robert Johnson, Albert King, & Blind Lemon Jefferson. His is rooted more in blues commercialism. It shouldn’t be.
Clay should find a newspaper (yeah, an old rag – even a vintage one, not current). Find stories buried in there that can be bluesified. Change names, circumstances, locations. Personalize it. Let the guitar cry where lyrics require it. Don’t just play to showboat, unless it’s a solo. The blues are more than that.
Ray Minton & Dan Smith (bass), Billy Justineau (organ/Wurlitzer piano) & Danny Jones (tambourine) — all excellent. The 19-minute EP sounds good — recorded in Texas & produced by Grammy-winner Danny Jones (3 cuts), with 2 by Sebastian Cure with Clay. Available @ https://claymelton.com/