Former local Clay McClinton releases "Out Of The Blue"
By Evan Wyloge
March 31, 2005
The wafting odor of scotch and water pierces a hazy cloud of cigarette smoke. Sweat slides down lonesome brows. The click-clack of cowboy boots rattles as swinging doors squeal on hinges begging for oil. Isolation itches in the sweltering heat as bittersweet beauty and naivete glisten on the pursed lips of the Southern peach temptress. This Texas-born, honky tonk dreamscape paints itself in my mind as I listen to Out of the Blue, Clay McClinton's poignant Southern blues album. McClinton is familiar to Flagstaff residents as part of the well-known, blues-grass band, Second Harvest. Their name is recognized and they've played with some of the best bluegrass, blues and country bands that have come through town.
But McClinton is now ready to debut his own music. With Out of the Blue, his first solo album, which was produced by another former Flag local Vinny Constantine, McClinton is showing the standalone strength of his songwriting abilities. This freshman album makes McClinton's ability clear. He has a strong grasp of his own voice and sound. He doesn't take on any sort of persona and he doesn't strive toward imitation. The songs on his album have a predictable but entertaining range. With tracks like "When It Rains", McClinton tucks his listener into a dreamy nostalgia. Flowing piano glides easily atop soft, brush drumming and steady high-hat. Smoky organ chords work their way into the mix. McClinton details the plodding existence of a man who once had a direction, but is now haunted by his path and location. "Made some coffee, smoked a cigarette, turned off the lights and went back to bed," McClinton sings. "Lying in the dark rackin his brain, he's called her so many things he can't remember her name, He steps outside, and it's cold and wet, he can't remember what he's trying to forget, he walks the streets all alone cause the storm in his head keeps raging on." Other tracks are upbeat and driving. Back-beat drumming, sparse guitar, bouncing piano and bari sax kicks backdrop energetic blues bar vocals in an archetypal fashion on tunes like "Starting to Itch." McClinton displays a sharp musical prowess with well-placed viola and upright bass, which add to the respectfully anachronistic feel of a good portion of the album. McClinton's vocals saunter with a Southern twang. The lyrics are nothing out of the ordinary, but his aural demeanor marches on;self-assured and content. Listening to his album, you can almost hear him smile and nod in comfortable certainty. Although one wouldn't want to expect the full range of instruments found on the album, McClinton's live performances must be fun to watch. Heartfelt presentation permeates the album and is probably not abandoned there.
Out of the Blue is a well-assembled album. The musicians are solid, the tunes don't overstep their natural scope and the production is seamless. McClinton refrains from plunging into overambitious experimentation, but never delves into mediocrity. His talent is evident, and his future projects will undoubtedly expand his firm musicianship.