By Rob Dickens.
Clay Parker & Jodi James EP
Clay Parker, a folk singer/songwriter originally from Thibodaux, Louisiana, has released two albums, The Wind & the Warble (2011) and Any Old Time (2013). Jodi James, another Louisiana native, hailing from Burnside, released her first full length record Things I Leave Behind in 2015 after a couple of earlier EPs.
Somewhere along the way, Parker and James shared ideas, songs and eventually recorded together. The results of their combined work is memorable. Their first recording, a self-titled EP of six tracks stands out like an Americana/folk beacon.
Their soulful voices and measured guitar work intertwine as if they are one person (think Gillian Welch/Dave Rawlings, The Milk Carton Kids) in an integrated and homespun triumph. The EP was recorded in Baton Rouge where they are both now based and largely features their guitars and vocals. The only outside instrumentation is Paul Buller’s (tasteful) pedal steel guitar, but there’s an atmospheric electric guitar solo and a glimpse of keyboard as well. These, however, are but passing embellishments to the core pair’s conjoined finger-picking and strumming.
The opening track ‘Come Back’ is about one person’s need to move on and the resultant separation that will ensue – ‘when you come back, won’t you come back to me?’, while ‘Moonshiner’ is a sad tale about the perils of excessive drinking. ‘Showboatin” is an old-time jaunty rag and ‘Meditation Blues’ is more country tinged – ‘I got no use for these to-be or not-to-be blues, so which will you choose?’
The material is high-class throughout its twenty-five minutes, and reaches a peak with the mellow closer ‘After the Smoke Clears’:
‘How many stars have burned out?
How many moons have waned?
How much can I take?
Am I forsaken alone?
Will you be here?
After the smoke clears’
Clay Parker and Jodi James have put together a gentle, loving and alluring collection, all songs both sincere and sublime.
Here’s a live version of ‘After the Smoke Clears’:
A tour of Australia might be on the horizon if there’s enough interest. When I caught up with the couple a little while back, they were on tour and caught in a snowstorm (a first for these Louisiana natives) in North Carolina, with a few shows cancelled on account of the weather.
How did you meet?
Baton Rouge isn’t a very big town considering its designation as the capital city of Louisiana. For those of us in the acoustic music scene who write songs, it’s important to know each other and to stick together and to back each other up. There aren’t many of us, and we all play the same venues and often share bills with one another.
We have been knowing each other and playing shows together in and around town for years.
How did you start singing together?
Back in 2014, I had been spending a good bit of time in Nashville working with several co-writers on different projects. Clay and I started exchanging song ideas back and forth over email, and by the time I got back home from being up there, we had a handful of songs that we’d never actually sat down and played together. So our initial purpose for singing and playing together was only to make demos of these songs.
What made you seriously want to work together as a duo?
Once we sat down with these songs together, we realized that we both really liked the way they sounded — the way we sang together and played together. Soon after, we shared a few local show bills where we wound up performing these new tunes we’d been working on, and it just made sense to keep going with it.
Where specifically was the EP recorded?
At Denton Hatcher’s studio in Baton Rouge.
Over what period were the songs developed and put down?
We wrote our first few tunes in late 2014 and spent most of 2015 writing and touring and sort of refining ourselves as a duo. By October 2015, we got the opportunity to spend about nine hours total in the studio and recorded our six-song EP.
Are all the songs co-writes?
How long will your tour stretch?
We have U.S. dates planned throughout March, April, and May from Texas all the way up to New York. They’ll be up at www.cpjjmusic.com/calendar.
Is there a full album in the offing?
Both of us have individual projects we are currently working on, but we are certainly making plans to be back in the studio in 2016.