Clay Parker & Jodi James - Your Very Own Dream
Although many contemporary musicians lay claim to the troubadour tradition, Clay Parker and Jodi James, hailing from the Louisiana bayous, truly embody the legacy of courtly poet-musicians, crafting songs that combine lyrical storytelling and a raw, down-to-earth delivery. Both artists had pursued separate solo careers, but when they got together in 2014, something special happened. You can hear it in the first notes of Fire For The Water, the opening song on this, their second full-length album. The couple have been scraping at the raw nerves of folk for long enough that they’ve achieved elder cult status and their latest offering proves exactly why they’ve remained a vital touring act for so many years. It’s a near-perfect example of the partnership among people who deeply care about the traditions of folk music. Making art where identity features centrally and flies under the radar all at once takes a deliberate equilibrium: balance between buildup and payoff. This couple plot out YOUR VERY OWN DREAM with that equilibrium in mind. The dark lit stories and the people who populate them, with all their intricacies, are the focal point here. Don’t be fooled by the folksiness early on, for their sound both transcends and embraces the folk boundaries. Though they are mainly the only two players involved, they offer a remarkable example of ample instrumental ability.
Hey Hey Hey, is not the anticipated joyful sound that the title suggests. It is one of the more barebones entries with Jodi’s plaintive vocal full of aching sensitivity, as Clay joins in with delicate harmonies to a simple, evocative guitar accompaniment. For In The Cool Of the Evening, they set up a vibe in what appears as an informal setting as you can get, using little more than an acoustic guitar, some judicious mumbling and wonderous harmonies for a gorgeous candle-lit performance. The upbeat country-rock jangle of Flatfoot, with its intricate storylines, contrasts decidedly with the gentle balladry of How High Would I Have To Fly?, which in turn, provides a soothing set-up to the track that follows, A Matchbox Song. The latter is a dark southern gothic yarn on which the pair are joined by Clint Kirby (drums) and Dave Hinson (bass) to create a sinister folk-rock mix that hooks you in to press that repeat button.
Nothing At All blooms steadily into a rhythmic country-rock mix that will make you want to dust off your collection of early Lucinda Williams’ albums. Jodi’s pained vocals are accompanied by Clay on electric guitar and soft harmonies, who peppers the performance with grooving, rollicking solos underpinned by the solid bass and drum work of Hinson and Kirby. Searching for a lost love, she squeezes the raw anguish of her obvious heartbreak out through the song’s masterful lyrics. And yes, it’s as good as that makes it sound. They close this compelling album with the wondrous title song that moves delicately through different lyrical phases, as they paint seemingly unconnected images in a guitar-led dreamscape. There’s a constant throughout the multiverse almost like the crickets chirping into the night; to take such an intimate and undefinable feeling and make it tangible, as if you were there in the dream, is magical.