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Music Review - `Oh America` by Nellie Clay (ea)

Nellie Clay - Oh America (click on image to watch video)

 23 March 2021

 

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No matter which way the world spins, music still has the power to surprise and delight. I played Nellie Clay’s new EP, “Oh America,” and to paraphrase the Rolling Stones, I had no real expectations. So it’s sweet to  report that she knocked me off my feet.

          Holy shit, where has this music been all my life?

The Okemeh, Oklahoma-based singer-songwriter already has a couple of EPs and two long-players under her belt. She’s also shared stages with legends like Arlo Guthrie and Eliza Gilkyson, as well as my former Joshua Tree musical crush, Tim Easton. Still, she snuck under my radar.

From the opening cut, “Small Town Queen,” through the closer, a trenchant cover of Texas troubadour Butch Hancock’s “Long Sunsets,” her music casts a spell. Her smoky contralto conjures up antecedents like Kitty Wells, Maria McKee, Patty Griffin and Gillian Welch.

The instrumentation and arrangements feel fresh, the melodies are indelible. On “Small Town” woozy trumpet intertwines with searing pedal steel.  “Good Women” is an empowering anthem that blends prowling acoustic guitars and see-saw fiddle. “If I Could Paint You A Picture” is a burnished acoustic waltz. Meanwhile, “Kind Love” is a back porch banjo-driven benediction.

The title track is the centerpiece, weaving melodic threads of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” into a rich aural tapestry. Lyrics address States that are divided, rather than united; “Oh, America, bless your poor little heart, you are suffering, you are falling apart/If love can’t find us all and make a brand new start, I fear the fight will fall to the blind and cold at heart.”

Nellie Clay has got the goods. 

 


Music Reviewer - Eleni P. AustinEleni P. Austin - I was born into a large, loud Greek family and spent my formative years in the Los Angeles enclaves of Laurel Canyon and Los Feliz. My mother moved us to the Palm Springs area just in time for puberty and Disco.  I have spent over 40 years working in record stores, starting back in High School.

I wrote music reviews for the Desert Sun from 1983 to 1988. I began doing the same for the Coachella Valley Weekly in 2012.

I live in Palm Springs with my wife and our amazing dog, Denver. 

To Read All of Eleni P.'s Reviews, Click Here

 

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