Blues Bytes

Surprise

May 2008

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Clarence Spady
Just Between Us
Severn Records

Clarence Spady

The inclusion of a "Surprise" feature in Blues Bytes was an idea I had when first designing the format of the site. The intention was to highlight a lesser known artist or an album that has flown under the radar.

My selection for this feature in the very first issue (December 1996) was a little-known Pennsylvania artist, Clarence Spady, with his very fine CD, Nature of the Beast. I called it a "gem of an album" and said that Spady was "definitely an artist with a good future in the blues."

Fast forward to now ... Spady is still out there playing the blues, but he is not yet a household name in the blues world. Perhaps his latest CD, Just Between Us, will finally give him the recognition he deserves. This is one of the best albums I've heard in a while. It's funky, jazzy, and soulful.

If I can compare Spady to another blues artist, I'd say that he's reminiscent of Robert Cray. I hesitate to use this type of comparison at the risk of unfairly labeling Spady as an imitator, because nothing could be further from the truth. He's got his own sound and his own style, with all 11 cuts on Just Between Us being original compositions.

The disc opens with the Al Green-ish "I'll Never Sell You Out," which gives the listener a taste of just how good and tight Spady's backing band is, as well as delivering the first of many tasteful guitar solos by the star of the show. Spady is one of those economical guitarists who plays just enough notes, not needing to show his guitar studliness by bludgeoning with excess.

"Enough Of You" gets a little more funky and soulful, with a couple of nice B-3 breaks from Benjie Porecki and a little harsher guitar picking from Spady. "King of Hearts" picks up the pace, giving Spady more of a chance to stretch out on guitar with a variety of bluesy licks. This tune leads into the anthemic "I'll Go," on which Spady does his finest vocal work. It's one of the more feelgood tunes on the disc.

Sax player Jacques Johnson steps into the spotlight on the funky mid-tempo number "Cut Them Loose," while one of Spady's hotter guitar solos occupies a prominent spot in the middle of the song. There's one instrumental number on the disc, the more jazzy "E-Mail" that's pretty much a vehicle for Spady's guitar playing over the course of six minutes.

The disc closes with a funky blues, "Candy," with a nice sax solo, likely from Frank Mitchell. Spady says, "...Love my candy, baby, skin soft, silky and smooth.. she's the only woman who knows how to put me in that groove, she's the only woman who knows how to keep me in that mood ..."

It's now time for the rest of the global blues audience to find out about Clarence Spady. Just Between Us is already occupying a slot my list of Top Ten discs for 2008. It will undoubtedly still be there at the end of the year.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

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