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Clay Parker and Jodi James

The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound – 2018 (Electric Wreck Music)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Clay Parker and Jodi James

The first full-length release from Baton Rouge, La. singer/songwriters Clay Parker and Jodi James has elements of country, blues and most prominently folk. Though Woody Guthrie is clearly a major influence with the opening lines of his "When the Curfew Blows" ("The lonesomest sound, boys/I ever heard sound, boys/On the stroke of midnight/Hear the curfew blow") having inspired the title of the album, the duo implements a more modern approach to their vintage sound. The country ballad "Every New Sky" in particular recalls the harmonies of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.

Joni Mitchell is another apparent influence as James' vocal on the moody "Cumberland Mill (No Pain)" is reminiscent of Mitchell's on such tracks as "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" and "You Turn Me on I'm a Radio," and the title of the bluesy "Down to the Garden" borrows from "Woodstock."

Perhaps the strongest track is the closing "Killin' Floor," a Dylanesque stream of consciousness that clocks in at just over 12 minutes which gives a nod to the album's title ("Did you ever know the lonesomest sound that can sound") and also alludes to the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" with the use of the phrase "this bird has flown." Other highlights are the haunting "Gallows Tree" and the country blues of "Yazoo City."

The duo co-wrote all 10 songs. The musicianship is understated, but stellar throughout, particularly with multi-instrumentalist Paul Buller on mandolin, pedal steel and electric guitar. With sweet harmonies and smart compositions this is an impressive debut.