Nola Blue Records
Release Date: May 21, 2021
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © May 2021
Since “Nature Of The Beast”, the 1996 debut release that garnered Clarence Spady a 1997 W. C. Handy Award nomination in the “Best New Blues Artist” category, “Surrender” is only his third release and it’s his first since 2008. As it often happens, life – and what it throws at you – did indeed get in Clarence’s way. But that was then and this is now. From what I’m hearing on this album, combined with his aligning with Nola Blue Records, there’s no doubt in my mind that there are many more releases – and Blues Music Award nominations, as well – in sixty year young Clarence Spady’s future.
On “Surrender”, Clarence Spady – on vocals, lead and rhythm guitar – is joined by: Adam Schultz on lead and rhythm guitar; Jon Ventre on bass; Scott Brown on keyboards; Andy Pace, Sharon O’Connell, Pat Marcinko, Barry Harrison, Shorty Parham and Anthony Wilson on drums; Tom Hamilton on tenor and baritone saxophones; Bob O’Connell on organ; Tom Martin on harmonica; and Mark Hamza on organ and pedal bass; with Shorty on background vocals, as well. Of the albums nine tracks, seven are originals.
Clarence’s 18 year-old protege Adam Schultz’s “Good Conversation” pointed me in so many wonderful musical directions that on this one song, I felt like I just listened to several hits from the 1970’s. Adam (guitar), Jon (bass), Tom H (horns), Scott (keys), Bob (organ), and Sharon (drums) all dished out an amazing meld of sounds that mixed in funk, disco, jazz, pop and soul; and not since Marvin Gaye have I heard vocals as smooth and soulful as Clarence is delivering. Absolutely dynamite stuff right here.
Because it’s slow, scorching blues, it pretty much goes without saying that for me, the late and great Lucky Peterson’s “When My Blood Runs Cold” is easily one of the disc’s best. Not recalling Lucky’s version I just had to immediately stop what I was doing and go have a listen. Once I did, I knew the original version would truly be a tough act to follow. That said, with Clarence’s powerfully emotional vocals and stinging guitar leads; Jon and Pat nailing the mellow rhythm groove; and Scott adding the heart and soul on the organ; these guys were indeed up to task and gave Lucky, and the song, the justice he and it deserves.
The inspiration behind “K-Man” comes from some of that stuff that life threw at Clarence. It’s a emotional tribute to his son Khalique, who was taken away at the ridiculously young age of twenty-five. Although the band is in a tight shuffle groove behind him, it’s Clarence’s heartfelt lyrics that command attention. Sorry for your loss, sir.
Back in October of last year I was asked by Sallie Bengtson, of Nola Blue Records, to provide a quote for her to use in conjunction with the release of the title track, “Surrender”, as a single. This is what I gave her and I see no need to change a word…
“After listening to “Surrender”, the title track off of Clarence Spady’s forthcoming new release I now feel teased and want more. While listening to the half minute guitar intro, the first thing I though was “this is blues”. Then Clarence started singing and I thought “this really is blues”. If this tasty morsel is anything like what the rest of the album will be like let me again say “I want more”… Well, here I am with more and yes, the rest of the disc is as good as the title track.
It would be a sacrilege to write a review of an album that contains “Downhome Blues” and not say anything about it. One of several songs that were written by George Jackson that Z. Z. Hill made famous, “Downhome Blues” is one of those timeless blues standards that you wish you had a dollar for everyone who performed it. Along with surprising and well done acoustic picking by Clarence, this rendition features some fabulous harmonica blowin’ and ivory tickling by Tom M. and Scott.
“Jones Falls Expressway” is one of three previously unreleased tracks that were recorded live at the River Street Jazz Cafe, in Plains, Pa, back in 1999. As the story goes, the song is about an actual stretch of highway that can be quite an intense drive. That said, without you having to take any unnecessary chances, the guys are giving you a full blown feel of that intensity. On this ten-and-a-half minute long instrumental that features profound rhythm with crazy good guitar, organ and sax leads being passed around at high speed, by Clarence, Mark and Tom H., as you should while driving the Jones Falls Expressway, make sure you fasten your seat belt.
Other tracks on disc that will have everyone who hears it saying “Welcome Back, Clarence Spady” include: “If My Life Was A Book”; “Addiction Game”; and “Pick Me Up”.
To find out more about Clarence Spady just go to his website – www.clarencespady.com – and when the release date comes, Wherever you go and whomever you talk to, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient