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13.2.09

Clarence Spady




Clarence Spady - Just Between Us - 2008 - Severn

Clarence Spady's first studio album in over 10 years. Bill Dahl ,of the Chicago Tribune, has described Clarence Spady as the future of the blues. This is a cool, laid back album of blues, jazz, funk and soul. Clarence has written eleven original songs, all played and sung with a degree of expertise that's a joy to listen to. Think of Boz Scaggs' "Silk Degrees". Pour in some Average White Band, and add a sprinkling of Robert Cray. That might give you an idea of how this album sounds. A great classy recording from the relatively obscure Clarence Spady, and regarding Clarences recording output, he's living proof of the "quality, not quantity" adage. Buy his brilliant "Nature of the Beast" album.

TRACKS

1. I'll Never Sell You Out
2. Enough of You
3. Just Between Us
4. King of Hearts
5. Won't Be This Way Always
6. I'll Go
7. Cut Them Loose
8. Be Your Enough
9. 24/7 Luv
10. E-Mail
11. Candy
All songs composed by Clarence Spady

MUSICIANS

Clarence Spady - Guitar, Vocals
Jimmy Earl, Steve Gomes - Bass
Benjie Porecki, Boru OBrien OConnell - Organ (Hammond), Piano (Electric)
Mark Merella - Percussion
Frank Mitchell - Sax (Tenor)
Meg Murray - Vocals (Background)

REVIEWS

“What are we listening to?” asked my wife cheerfully from the other room. By now, I have come to recognize that question as a good recommendation for an album. She never asks unless it is something that has favorably caught her attention. To prepare for this review, I was playing Clarence Spady’s second CD for about the third time on our main stereo system. By this third listen, my wife was just familiar enough to recognize, appreciate, and more deeply enjoy the songs. She never did like Jimi Hendrix’s screechy guitar shredding nor anything closely similar. Something smoother listening is more to her immediate liking. Indeed, Spady’s first studio recording in over ten years is not the straight blues of his debut "Nature of the Beast" released in 1996 which garnered him a W.C. Handy Award nomination for Best New Artist '97. Just Between Us is a mellower and intriguing mix of blues, jazz, funk, R&B, and rock carried by Hammond organ, horns, lush backup vocals (e.g. “Just Between Us”) and Spady’s sensitive guitar work. As a songwriter and immediately-likeable singer, Clarence created 11 brand new originals which make his personal looks at life accessible to a wide audience. Born July 1, 1961 in Paterson NJ, Spady and his family were moved by his dad Clarence “Pops” Sr. to Scranton, PA in 1966 to a safer suburb and better job. The family still traveled to NJ every weekend to play with Clarence’s Uncle Fletchy’s R & B band. After his Aunt Bea found him playing “High Heeled Sneakers” on his father’s guitar backstage one night, Clarence was called upon to play his first professional gig at the age of 5. He’s been entertaining people with his talented guitar playing ever since. His career has had some setbacks, but, today, Spady tours in places like Hong Kong, Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and all parts of the U.S. He plays at NYC’s Terra Blues plus his home base in Pennsylvania at the River Street Jazz Café. As mentioned earlier, this is not a lead-guitar-driven album, but one can find some great solos on “I’ll Go,” the slow bluesy “Be Your Enough,” and “Cut Them Loose.” “I’ll Never Sell You Out” and “Cut Them Loose” were co-written with Donya Washington. The funky latter contains a serious message to a young man (son ?), “I don’t care, boy, what your friends say or do / See them doing wrong, you better cut them loose!” For some booty shaking on the dance floor, try “24/7 Luv” and the funkified “Won’t Be This Way Always.” Perhaps the most fascinating number, right to the last stop, is the only instrumental, “E-Mail.” Running just over six minutes, there are enough hooks, grooves, riffs, false stops, and repeated themes that a jam-band could play it for twenty five minutes. Spady’s harmonic guitar is deftly arranged with, not over, rhythmic organ, bass, drums, and percussion. Spady’s return is not straight blues, but it’s no toss-away either. While “mood music” would not be the correct idea to infer about this album, I definitely know one person it put in the right mood. © James “Skyy Dobro” Walker, © www.illinoisblues.com 2007

By the mid-1990s, after nearly a lifetime of playing and better than 15 years of performing, guitarist Clarence Spady was widely-considered to be the next big thing in blues music. A virtuoso on the fretboard and a soulful vocalist, Spady had plenty of upside, and expectations among blues fans and the biz were high. Signed to Evidence Records in Philadelphia, which reissued Spady's critically-acclaimed debut Nature of the Beast in 1996, the future looked sunny for the young bluesman from Scranton, PA. This is blues music, however, and soon there would be storm clouds on the horizon. Spady earned a reputation as being "difficult" and a "troublemaker," alleged misbehavior causing Evidence to drop their option on the guitarist. I don’t know if the drug problem that Spady had kicked by the time of his debut album had crept back into his life, but no other blues-oriented label would take a chance on the talented artist until Severn Records signed him. Just Between Us is Spady's first album in over a decade, and only his second recording since that promising debut. From the opening notes of "I'll Never Sell You Out," a distinctive throwback vibe hits your ears. The song could have easily been a late-1960s/early-70s R&B radio hit. Spady's impressive fretwork combines George Benson-styled soulful jazz with B.B. King-influenced urban blues, a sound punctuated by a lonely sax riff cutting through the darkness. There's definitely an "after dark" feel to the song, when the streetlights flicker on and the moon settles in for its nightly task, thus setting the stage for the rest of Just Between Us. The spry, upbeat "Enough of You" offers a funky strutting rhythm, combined with blasts of rollicking Hammond organ and Spady's subtle, nuanced string-bending. The lyrical subject matter is pure blues, though, the guy getting dumped by his girl after, I presume, too much catting around. The beautifully-paced soul-blues ballad "Just Between Us" showcases tearful Spady vocals, supported by delicious backing harmonies and a melodious guitar line, while "Be Your Enough" is a slow blues number custom-built for a club stage, the kind of crowd-pleaser that is certain to snap the audience to attention with the first notes of Spady's trembling solo. The tender, positive "I'll Go" includes some rock undercurrents holding up a Gospel-tinged soundtrack with great vocal harmonies and a tough-enough Spady solo that walks the line between Eric Clapton's purist eye and Warren Haynes' blues-rock mastery. "Cut Them Loose" is a slice-of-Chicago-lifestyle, a big-band blues romp with a walking beat and blasts of horn, a "me-or-them" lyrical ultimatum that benefits from fat, funky chords and a delightful mid-point guitar solo that fits the song like a tailored sports coat. The instrumental "E-Mail" includes elements of old-school R&B and Southern rock (think Marshall Tucker's Toy Caldwell), with strident start-stop rhythms and cascading six-string gymnastics that display the breadth of Spady's talent. The rest of Just Between Us follows a similar musical blueprint: wonderful songs with solid production and plenty of heart and soul. Keyboardists Bob O'Connell and Benjie Porecki merit special acclaim. The two players alternate songs here, adding a fine vintage flavor to Spady's retro-soul material with their Hammond riffs and flourishes. Most prominent, however, strung throughout the album, are Spady's carefully-crafted solos, the guitarist sculpting pure sonic joy whenever his fingers hit the strings. Just Between Us isn't your typical blues album, instead more of a mixture of supercharged-soul, raucous R&B, and slick urban blues (with muted rock & roll influences). Spady possesses a rough-edged voice, definitely reaching at times, while nailing other performances with a distinctive vocal flair. It is Clarence Spady's skills as a songwriter and talent as a guitarist that rise above everything else on Just Between Us, the artist creating an intelligent and unique personal style. Spady's typically understated, and sometimes spectacular fretwork imbues each song with color, and his tales of love gone wrong, or the struggle to keep romance alive, are both well-written and universal in appeal. This is blues music for the 21st century: lively, sophisticated, and proud of its roots. © Reverend Keith A. Gordon, © 2009 About.com, a part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

ABOUT CLARENCE SPADY

Guitarist, singer and songwriter Clarence Spady, a 30-something blues musician, has a bright future. Spady, born and raised in Paterson, N.J., but now living in Scranton, PA, has been credited with taking the music in new and exciting directions, writing at times introspective, autobiographical blues lyrics for the 1990s. His debut for the Philadelphia-based Evidence Music, Nature of the Beast, received critical praise from all corners of the blues world, and he's signed to a multi-album deal with the label. (Spady recorded the album independently before executives at Evidence signed him.) Like diddley bow player Lonnie Pitchford, Spady was cited by Living Blues magazine as one of the "top 40 under 40" blues players to watch in the future. Spady learned blues from his father, and played his first professional show as a five-year-old in kindergarten, where he performed B.B. King and James Brown tunes for his classmates. Raised in Scranton, Pa., where he's still based, Spady would sit on his dad's lap and watch him play guitar until bedtime. Spady got his first guitar at age four; blues fever caught him early on, and he's never let it go. His first show came later that year, when he was six, playing with his father, older brother, aunt and uncle at the Paterson Elks Club in New Jersey. Like any good bluesman, Spady was raised singing in church, which he attended every Sunday with his mother. Unlike other Southern bluesmen who were raised just a generation earlier, the blues were not forbidden in the Spady household; quite the contrary, they were encouraged, since his father and other relatives played the music. Spady sang gospel music in church and took his cue from the secular music of the day played on the radio around New York City, including James Brown, the Isley Brothers and Jimi Hendrix. He counts B.B. King and Albert Collins among his main blues mentors, and throughout his formative years, Spady played with various rock and gospel groups, honing his chops in the hope that one day he would lead his own blues band. After he graduated from high school in 1979, Spady hit the road with regional groups and spent most of the 1980s with the Greg Palmer Band, which opened for major touring acts like the Temptations, the Four Tops and the Spinners. After getting off the road in 1987, Spady played lead guitar in several Scranton-area blues bands and also directed the Shiloh Baptist Church Choir. By the early 1990s, Spady decided to lead his own band. Much of the material on Nature of the Beast is drawn from his personal experience with drugs and his former relationships with women. Although he's long since dropped the drug habit he picked up in his years after high school, the experiences provided him with fodder for some of the songs on his debut. Spady's multi-album deal with Evidence Music was formalized in February, 1996, after the company agreed to remaster and repackage Nature of The Beast, the independently released album which got him radio airplay and allowed him to tour clubs and festivals up and down the East Coast. Spady will be a force in the blues world for a long time to come, as he backs up great singing with stellar guitar playing and a creative muse for blues lyric writing that the world will find refreshing. © Richard Skelly, All Music Guide