Willie Clayton

Soul and Blues

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Willie Clayton's smoke and whiskey-tinged tenor is a throwback to the days when R&B meant deep, deep soul. Woefully underappreciated, Clayton should appeal to fans of Al Green, the singer he most resembles (Clayton has worked with Green's producer Willie Mitchell in the past), although there's a trace of Curtis Mayfield in there, too. He's just one of those vocalists who could sing the phone book and the result would sound perfectly phrased and memorable. This set from Malaco Records is nicely varied, running from uptempo tracks to urbane blues pieces, but it hardly seems disjointed, due, in large part, to Clayton's voice, which makes it all feel seamlessly connected. The opener, "I Feel a Cheatin' Coming On," is a delight, as is his cover of "I Can't Stand the Rain" and the stomping "Triple Diamond Slot Machine." Clayton visits the blues on the uptown and velvet smooth "All Day Blues," which doesn't exactly set the world on fire, but it balances things in the sequence, and if this is hardly the album that will push Clayton into the front line and bring him the attention he deserves, it's never less than pleasant and then there's that voice, which can't help but make any day better.

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