Otis Clay

Hi Masters

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Otis Clay never had a pop hit, and although he was a steady presence on the R&B charts in the 1970s, he never reached into the Top 20 there, either, which is somewhat of a mystery, since few artists this side of Otis Redding have ever demonstrated a better grasp of what has come to be known as "deep soul." With his gruff, gospel-fueled vocals, Clay was as hard sounding as any Hi Records artist ever got, and his sides for the label (all produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell and featuring the great Hi Rhythm Section) sound like they should have come out on Stax. This is explosive stuff, and Clay's treatment of songs like "Trying to Live My Life Without You" are a must for any Southern soul collection. Other highlights here include "Brand New Thing," "I Didn't Know the Meaning of Pain," and "Home Is Where the Heart Is," all of which exhibit the same kind of country and gospel mix that made Otis Redding a star. Why Clay isn't better known in the states is one of life's enigmas, and a true shame, since few singers of his generation could testify like this. As introductory collections go, Hi Masters does nicely, although the two-disc Complete Otis Clay on Hi Records is probably the place to start, since you're going to have to get it anyway after you hear this guy sing.

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