Cass Clayton Band, ‘Play Nice’ – Review

By on October 15, 2019
photo: Richard Hawes

Cass Clayton is a Colorado based singer-songwriter whose singing oozes of smoke and honey while her slide guitar playing is simply badass. That being said, her new album Play Nice, flows through a river of blues, soul, funk and rock, and the ride is both entertaining and thought provoking.

Clayton and her band have built up quite a following in the Rockies winning awards along the way, including 2018 Album of the Year at the Colorado Blues Society Members’ Choice Awards. Play Nice features twelve songs, eleven originals and one cover.

The album begins with a song of down home memories. “Dawes County” is a story of coming home but with a new perspective. The singer has moved on, the town has not. There’s melancholy in her voice and in the instrumentation as she recounts the reasons why it will be her last visit. An easy to listen to introduction to the album.

“Little Things” brings out a little more soul in contrast to the Americana vibe of “Dawes County.” Clayton vocals have a smoky, muffled quality that fall nicely in place with the background horns.

Though “Play Nice,” the title song, is low-key, it drips of sensuality. Catching a stranger’s eye in a crowd, what are the possibilities? Sweet use of bass and keys almost as punctuation, keeping a smooth tension throughout. “B Side” features a generous amount of rhythm with a bluesy edge. Nice use of words to describe a relationship in the terms of A Side vs. B Side. “If you were a record on my shelf, you know I’d play you night and day.”

“You’ll See” is just a delightful mix of tone, melody, and overall feel. Lively and feet-movin’, it’s a hodgepodge of electronics, percussion and soulful vocals.

Lyrically, no other song on the album comes close to the beauty and profoundly true words of “The Most Beautiful.” A sobering view of how society looks at what is perfection and what is not. Outer beauty doesn’t reflect inner beauty, and hypocrisy is the fluent language these days. Stunning work.

“Doesn’t Make Sense,” takes a funk/blues path. A stripped down vocal complements the stripped down instrumentation. Slow and measured, there’s a bunch of separate pieces that mold together beautifully.

“Flowers At My Feet” continues the funk, but it’s definitely not stripped down. Using her voice as a lead instrument, Cass Clayton finally puts her soul completely into it. There’s generous use of guitar, bass, organ and backing vocals, creating a crazy blend of funk.

Play Nice finishes up with a cover of Ted Hawkins’ “Strange Conversation.” Clayton’s vocal pleads while the melody plays under her. Nice and bluesy, Clayton keeps a nice balance between strength and softness.

In speaking about her new release, Clayton said “Play Nice is an ironic title for this album, because I wasn’t really playing nice in the writing of these songs. That’s a departure from the norm for me, because I’ve always been careful to make sure people feel comfortable. I have a triple decker filter before my thoughts hit my tongue. I didn’t want to do that with the music, so I stepped away from the comfort of being liked and said what I needed to say. I believe Play Nice turned out to be more expressive, vulnerable and sensual. Even the rock-based songs have an underlying message. I definitely feel overexposed, and maybe that’s the way an artist should feel. Hopefully putting it out there without a filter allows other people to feel a little freer as well.”

An accurate description.

An album with great depth of feeling, all while playing nice.

Review by Kath Galasso @KatsTheory

Cass Clayton website

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Track List:

  1. Dawes County
  2. Little Things
  3. Play Nice
  4. B Side
  5. No Use In Crying
  6. Tattered and Torn
  7. You’ll See
  8. The Most Beautiful
  9. Doesn’t Make Sense
  10. Flowers At My Feet
  11. Slow Kiss
  12. Strange Conversation