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February 2009

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Otis Clay
Walk A Mile In My Shoes
Echo Records

Otis Clay

Soul legend Otis Clay has always mixed gospel music with his deep soul sounds, and has even released a couple of gospel albums over the years (the mid ’90s The Gospel Truth, on Blind Pig, being a prime example). Clay’s latest release, Walk A Mile In My Shoes (Echo Records), is his first studio effort since 1998’s This Time Around, and is a marvelous set of gospel and inspirational tunes.

Clay’s vocal style, as is the case with most soul singers, is heavily steeped in the gospel tradition, so his vocals on these tracks are as intense as they would be on his secular tunes. Despite the fact that this set was recorded in several different settings over several years, using different producers, it meshes well as a cohesive unit.

Many of the songs featured on Walk A Mile In My Shoes are covers of songs, or songs influenced by the Soul Stirrers, one of gospel music’s most influential groups. The lovely “God Is Standing By,” penned by former Soul Stirrer Johnnie Taylor, opens the disc, and is followed by a sparkling set of old Stirrers’ tunes, including “His Love,” (actually “His Precious Love,” from Clay’s ’80s masterpiece Soul Man: Live In Japan.), “Love of God” and “Heaven Is My Home.” Also featured is a rousing medley of Soul Stirrer songs (“Nearer To Thee,” “Touch The Hem of His Garment,” “Jesus Be A Fence Around Me,” and “Last Mile of the Way”) written by their legendary frontman, Sam Cooke. The medley features two Soul Stirrers, Leroy and Arthur Crume, singing with Clay.

The remaining tracks include a first-rate version of Joe South’s classic title track, a marathon version of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need Of Love Today,” and “If I Could Reach Out and Help,” a duet recorded with Carla Thomas at the Chicago Gospel Festival.

Otis Clay remains one of the greatest singers on the planet, and Walk A Mile In My Shoes shows that the line between soul music and gospel music is indeed a thin one.

--- Graham Clarke


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