The Graham Album Review #1793
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Clampitt: Things Are Different Now
by George Graham
(Independent Release. As broadcast on WVIA-FM 11/5/2014)
I have always thought that there is room in the music world for both the innovators, and those who carry on a stylistic tradition. As far as I am concerned, each is as valid as the other. Music is always moving on and the innovators make that happen, exploring new ideas and sounds. Most are destined to be forgotten quickly. Only once in a long time does the work of those musical innovators become mainstream. Among those hewing to a particular style from the past, probably the most important thing is the quality of the performance, not just getting the style right, but providing some degree of originality and musical uniqueness, so that it's not just another oldies tribute act.
This week, we have a very good album by one of those revivalists, making new music that evokes certain periods of the past. In this case, it's soul, blues and roots rock from a young artist from Florida named Brady Clampitt, and his CD is called Things Are Different Now.
Brady Clampitt is from Jacksonville, and attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, usually known for turning out jazz and fusion players. He is a guitarist and the composer of all the songs. He spent time in Nashville, making connections, and eventually picked up studio and touring sideman gigs before working on an album of original music released in 2012. Now he is out with Things Are Different Now, and it shows him in fine form, with an excellent band of tasteful musicians. They play in a soulful bluesy style that is a little more laid back than many of the retro bands and performers are doing these days. Clampitt plays acoustic guitar on several tracks, which adds a more intimate touch, but there are also songs with a full horn section, in the style of Memphis soul records. Though the tunes are quite good, the one area where the album falls a bit short in imagination is in the lyrics. They cover the same topic as countless other songs, mainly love songs, and Clampitt does not really come up with anything very new to say.
But the album, overall, is quite well-done, with appealing tunes in a decent variety of styles, and all-around good musicianship. The players on this Florida-made album include keyboardist Richard Sherrington, bassist Billy Thornton and drummer Nico Lembo. The co-producer with Clampitt was Jim DeVito, who has worked with rootsy groups like JJGrey & Mofro and the jam band Swamp Cabbage. The result has the kind of classic R&B and soul sound of the 1960s, complete with horns arrangements and no sonic concessions to contemporary synthesizer based digitally manipulated styles. A photo on the CD and on his website, shows a reel of multitrack analog tape, on which the album was presumably recorded.
Opening is a track called I Wanna Love You, hardly the most original feeling expressed in a song. But it's all very well done, with a great easy groove and tight musicianship all around. <<>>
Following is another tune with a similarly familiar lyrical theme, Countin' On Love. But like the rest of the album, the beaten-path lyrical approach does not detract from the strong performance, which also embodies all the good things about the classic Memphis-style soul sound of the 1960s. <<>>
A bit more laid back is the title track Things Are Different Now. With the acoustic slide guitar and harmonica of Isaac Corbitt, the song has a nice easy-going blues groove. <<>>
The basic lyrical direction stays pretty much on track for most of the album, though sometimes it can take a more melancholy turn, such as on the song called Nobody, where the love affair isn't reciprocal, again not exactly innovative in its narrative. But the track is an especially appealing one musically. <<>>
Clampitt goes all out for the Memphis soul sound, evoking some Otis Redding records, on the track called Wait For You. Although it's rather well-done it, does not quite measure up to the high standards of some of the other pieces on the album. <<>>
There is one song that is not a conventional love song lyrically. Quit It, though, is about the love of playing music. The tune takes a more rock-oriented direction. <<>>
Come Home is a more laid-back, sadder song that is a bit musically reminiscent of the Allman Brothers' Melissa. Its presence enhances the musical variety on the album. <<>>
The closing song on the CD Kiss the Wind, is listed as a "bonus track." It's definitely the rockiest on the album, with lyrics to match. Clampitt cranks up his guitar for the occasion. <<>>
Brady Clampitt's new independent release Things Are Different Now is a tasteful album that nicely blends retro soul, blues, roots rock and even a little country influence that breathes musical life into the classic styles. While the material is not particularly innovative, especially lyrically, the fact that this album does what it does so well makes it noteworthy, especially from an emerging artist. The retro movement is definitely alive and well, especially in soul and blues like this, but Brady Clampitt's album stands out for being honest, easy-going and not slavishly retro, as some groups who go as far as having the same kind of sonic quirks as the old records.
Speaking of sonics, we'll give the CD close to an A, because of its clean mix that does not try to imitate the sound of old records, though it was apparently an analog recording. And the dynamic range is somewhat better than average, with not so much volume compression artificially cranking up the loudness as is common these days.
With the increasing popularity of retro soul and R&B, I would say that there are more good records in the style being issued now than there were back in the day. For fans of the genre who want to go beyond the oldies, this is a good time in music. And Brady Clampett's new CD is definitely on my list of recommended records.(c) Copyright 2014 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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