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Clarence Spady - Just Between Us

Severn Records, Inc.

11 songs; 49:03 minutes; Meritable

Style: Soul-blues, Jazz, R&B

“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.

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

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