Cass Clayton Band – Play Nice
Cass Clayton is a product of the Colorado music scene and combines rock, soul, blues, funk and R&B into a smooth and cohesive package. Each song tells a story and Clayton and company are up to the task. There are 11 new songs here and one cover.
Clayton hails from the Mountain State and her 2018 album was selected as the Colorado Blues Society Members Choice Album of the Year. It was reviewed in Blues Blast Magazine a year ago in 2018 by me and I liked it a lot. This album takes us on a more positive path and continues to showcase the songwriting and musicianship of Clayton and her band. Taylor Scott is a fine guitar player whose skills are evident in each track. Tom Amend and Jon Wirtz share the duties on organ and keys. Chris Harris is on bass except for one track with Loren Phillips (track 7). On drums, Brian Claxton and Larry Thompson share the duties except on tracks 5 and 6 where Steve Saviano plays.
The album opens with “Dawes County,” a biographical cut about Claytons’ home where her family farmed and she has graduated from to move on to bogger and better things. Nic Clark adds some cool harp to the cut as Clayton sings with a country flair and Scott lays out some nice licks. Up next is “Little Things;” its got a good groove to it and Clayton delivers a a performance with emotion. Darryl Gott on tenor sax and Gabe Mervine on trumpet are a sweet horn section backing Cass and the band. “Play Nice” is next, a restrained and subdued cut with the organ setting a mood as Clayton sings. Scott has a short but poignant solo here, too. “B Side” is a tune about a relationship where the A side is a lot of fun but the B side may have some issues that are lacking. A big, driving, mid tempo cut with heavy guitar and organ where Clayton asks her man to see his whole persona while telling him she, too, may have some secrets. Interesting stuff. “No Use In Crying” moves along with a driving beat and we get to hear the horn section again. Clayton sings stridently and the guitar and organ both showcase themselves well. “Tattered and Torn” is a darker ballad with some well done piano Amend added to his organ work. The song builds and Clayton delivers the goods with emotion.
“You’ll See” is a funky and driving cut with a great groove. Lots of heady organ work by Wirtz and Scott adds to the mix with his guitar. We get another ballad in “The Most Beautiful Girl” about a set of Siamese twins and other people from life’s freak show that Clayton sings are just people like us. Scott gives a thoughtful solo to add to the mood. We get “Doesn’t Make Sense Next,” another funky cut with an interesting guitar lead and paced vocals by Clayton. “Flowers At My Feet” has some more funkiness going on with a big guitar intro and lots of bass and organ for fun, too. Clayton builds here vocals throughout with some nice backing vocals. Organ and guitar solos are forthright and cool. “Slow Kiss” is a short, somber instrumental that comes out of “Play Nice;” Clayton sings about not dismissing a slow kiss in that song and we get that slow kiss in this cut. The album ends with “Strange Conversation,” a 1994 song by Ted Hawkins. It was s a cool cut originally and Clayton gives it her own angst filled cover; nicely done!
Much of the topics for the songs remain a little dark (as in her prior album) but Clayton is able to make those songs enjoyable and interesting for the listener. She delivers emotion and she and the band are together and tight. Scott had a hand in writing many of the songs with Clayton and on one Wirtz was involved. The songs are solid musically and lyrically and the arrangements are really spot on. This is a great effort that is more rock and funk than blues, but that does not diminish the fact that it is all really good music!