Scott Clay – Let It All Lay Bare
My first impression is the fine production quality of this recording which was partially recorded in Seattle. Scott Clay (guitar/vocals) like most singer-songwriters draws inspiration from relationships, historical events, intimacy & the beauty of the natural world. He keeps the majority of his music interesting & simple, with little distraction or creative detours.
This is Scott’s 5th full-length CD & he’s a credible storyteller with touches of funk-lite in “Nothing Like The Real Thing,” with his warm soulful vocals & gripping Muscle Shoals-type drive. No easy feat. Backup vocals do some heavy lifting around Clay’s higher-pitched inspired vocal. There’s a minimum of cliches in Scott’s poignant tunes (“Open Country”) & he straddles the melodic worlds of John Denver & the more countrified side of early John Prine.
Performing with Scott Clay are Keith Lowe (bass), Daniel Walker (keys) & Sean Lane (drums). Quite a stripped-down group who play the basics but manage to have a full sound. The band is spare which can be good – since the focus is on the songs, not the showcase, skills & abilities of individuals. It’s easier to listen to. On the inside spread, Clay walks through a canyon floor instead of opting for the standard railroad tracks. Well, at least he’s trying to be different even with the optics.
The 37-minute CD was produced by Mike Davis. All songs were written by Mr. Clay on Let It All Lay Bare (Drops Sept 23–Independent) & the only issue despite the fine lyrics, melodies & excellent musicians is that the repertoire is still a standard collection of 10 well-written songs. They need a little more distinction to separate Clay from the crowd of male singer-songwriters. I hear the potential but the risk to be taken must come from a ballsy producer. “Baptize Me,” is quite a formulaic rocker except for the vivid lead guitar that is juicy. The tune should’ve had more muscle throughout.
“Simple Kind,” is a lovely song with gentle harmonica & Clay’s voice — consistently rich. This one needs no embellishment. But a “character” could be added to the repertoire. John Prine had his, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Dolly, Reba, & even J.J. Cale – all had a special ingredient.
They didn’t just write songs; they created their own musical environment that influenced others. Clay is in the same musical cache as the wonderful modern singer-songwriter James Maddock – the late Robert Hazard in his folkier realm & blues/balladeer singer John Hammond.
Highlights – “It’s Easy,” (rocker), “Chief Joseph & “Aurora” (beautiful).
Color image by Spencer Johnson. CD @ https://www.scottclaymusic.com/