Josh Clayton-Felt

Spirit Touches Ground

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Put together during Josh Clayton-Felt's painful battle with cancer, the posthumously released Spirit Touches Ground is a reminder of how young and promising he truly was. Clayton-Felt died a month after finishing the final mix of this album, which was still in limbo due to record company issues. If this album is any indication, Clayton-Felt was on his way to becoming the lighthearted alternative to Jeff Buckley. That may seem like an obvious comparison, but the parallels between the two musicians are eerie when viewed side by side. They were both respected guitarists who used their smooth voices and songwriting skills to make some of the best blue-eyed soul of the '90s. And both musicians were sadly taken from the world far too early in their careers, something that has halted any mainstream exposure Clayton-Felt could have received. Unlike 1996's Inarticulate Nature Boy, this has a very distinct ebb and flow that showcases each song but adds up to a consistently listenable album. This is not a release that immediately sticks out, but instead it burrows into the listener's brain through time. The gentle pop of "Backwards World" weaves a web of airy, light grooves and gorgeous post-Beatles horns that compliment his songwriting skills perfectly, as does the Jellyfish-esque slow jam of "Love Sweet Love." He unleashes his funky side on a few tracks, most noticeably on the bouncy title track, but his ballads are the best inclusions on the album. "Deer in the Headlights" is a shuffling gem that hinges on Clayton-Felt's delicate falsetto, while the moody "Too Cool for This World" is a sparse and beautiful lullaby. But it is "Dragon Fly" that ends the album with a heartbreaking insight into his own impending death that shines with his trademark optimism and charming simplicity. Although the direct intent may not have been to examine his own fate, the lifting guitar and repeating verses are the finest tribute anyone could have written for the man. Clayton-Felt wrote what could have been a breakthrough album; unfortunately this is the last document of a wonderful talent who was hitting his stride at the time of his passing.

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