Sunday, July 27, 2008

Daniel Clay - The Protestant

Daniel Clay was a fantastic surprise to bump into, The Protestant a real beauty that seems to have made its way onto my list of favorite records of 2008. It also happens to make the case for why tangible albums are more delightful than album downloads, as its inner art is a long wave of lyrics printed in what appears a brown Garamond type over cream-colored paper packaging. Exquisite.

Clay's been based in Mississippi and Georgia over his lifetime, and is a 29-year old who's been playing guitar more than half his life. His sound is somehow pious without irony, and though his style is much more that of melancholy folk balladeer, the recording quality of The Protestant is quite similar to Ris Paul Ric's Purple Blaze, where the sound of abundant space is either emulated or obviously apparent, leaving a slight echo that puts every sound, vocal or strung, boldly front and center.

Lyrically, there's a heavy look into the question of God that's written all over the record, but it's not a Christian record, rather a relatively cynical analysis of how religion's made its way into most aspects of American life.

On “Judgement Day,” Clay hopes to see the look on the preacher's face and the reaction of the Sunday school teacher's class when the two respectively meet their judgement days. On “Blindness,” one of the prettiest songs here, Clay sings “I've been waiting all my life to be blind...never see the eye-sore world again.” There's "Things Will Change," seemingly a glimpse of what America will look like when we've taken all we can take and are forced to start over from scratch. And the record is summarized concisely on “Zion,” the closing track, as such: “I can see no difference between the Christians and consumers, the preachers and public officials, the bibles and the billboards.”

Plenty of artists make leftist or protest records, but this one is well-written without hiding under the "look at me" image of a trendy, liberal-when-convenient guise. The Protestant is a thoughtful record that's beautifully and simply performed, proof that a quality record needs no elaborate production or involvement, and that worthwhile songwriters are indeed lurking about.

Daniel Clay - Two
Daniel Clay - Zion

Purchase The Protestant via Daniel Clay's website.

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