For such an accomplished guitarist, Clarence Spady, will never be classes as prolific; his first album, Nature of the Beast came out in 1996, his second Just Between Us, in 2008 and now his third album called Surrender has just been released in 2021. It demonstrates faith and determined recovery from a man who has seen such a lot.
It is a reflective personal collection from Clarence who has been playing guitar since he was five years old, in and around his home state of Pennsylvania…here he learned stage craft and soaked up the compositional skills from his early bands.
It opens with the Memphis soul styled blues of If My Life Was A Book; a sort of Robert Cray with bite! I was hoping for a display of his guitar prowess and it could (for me) have replaced the conversation toward the fade..ah well.
Next up is the slightly funk, soul blues of Good Conversation. This is from the pen young guitar prodigy Adam Schultz who Clarence mentors and he also plays lead…it’s a measure of the man that Clarence mentors the player and allows him free reign on this soulful song; the guitar solo from Adam is a well crafted, thoughtful and beautiful piece.
When My Blood Runs Cold is a song from famed keyboard player, Lucky Peterson, is much more like it: sparkling guitar introduces this slow blues song with emotion filled vocals and a superb guitar solo that has some lovely flourishes…this could have lasted another hour at least!
K-Man is a heartfelt tribute to his late son, Khalique. It is still a positive message of memory over sadness over a neat blues shuffle with some subtle harp and a great walking bass line. The harp solo is neat too but the closing guitar solo is fades before it should.
The title track, Surrender, is a story of redemption inspired by his church…”I’ve been court ordered here and there, Rehabs and jails, ya know, brought on despair, If there’s any dues to pay, lord I paid my share” gives a clue as to how some of those intervening years between albums were spent and how Clarence is now out of the other side. Set to a lovely guitar /keys melody, this blues, soul, gospel hybrid that works so well; as do the guitar highlights between the vocals.
Down Home Blues from the pen of ZZ Hill is given an acoustic reworking which gives a fresh perspective on a much covered tune. The blues seeps through the chord work and the piano and harp add colour…even the exhaled ‘oofs’ of harp man Tom Martin work and the two acoustic guitar solos by Clarence is inspired…this is the track I always seek out first.
The last three tracks come from a 1999 performance at River Street Jazz Cafe in Pennsylvania: the first, Addiction Game, is recounted from experience over a jazzy blues with keys, sax and guitar working with, and off, each other brilliantly. Jones Falls Expressway is an instrumental interpretation of a near death experience on a motorway (freeway) near Baltimore…I got that from the CD notes as I’d never have guessed; what I do know is that this rollicking blues is an absolute treat with lots of lovely guitar through the whole ten minutes…the trade of solos with the sax and organ would have been great to watch and it doesn’t feel like ten minutes which is always a good sign.
Pick Me Up rounds off the CD with the last of the live tracks. It’s back to soul based blues with Shorty Parham sharing vocals; another solid solo from Clarence too.
Although a couple of tracks run a bit too close to soul for my personal tastes, this is still a very good album that shows why Clarence was recognised by the WC Handy organisation for both of his previous albums. There’s plenty to enjoy and the instrumental is worth the entrance fee on its own.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful album especially if you like your blues with soulful leanings; still plenty to enjoy if you love guitar playing if quality too.
If My Life Was A Book
When My Blood Runs Cold
Down Home Blues
Jones Falls Expressway
Pick Me Up
Clarence Spady: vocals, guitar
Adam Schultz: guitar
Jon Ventre: bass
Scott Brown: keyboards
Mark Hamza: keyboards
Andy Pace: drums
Sharon O’Connell: drums
Pat Marcinko: drums
Barry Harrison: drums
Anthony Wilson: drums
Shorty Parham: drums, backing vocals
Tom Hamilton: saxophones
Tom Martin: harmonica
(iTunes led me to a track of a brilliant tribute album to one of the greatest guitarists; Peter Green. Called the Peter Green Songbook, it featured major players covering some of Peter’s most influential songs…I was rewarded with a version of The Supernatural delivered with empathy and class by the under appreciated Clas Yngstrom…delightful.)