Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this edition of Independent Spotlight I’ll be taking a look at Adam Ray and his new record, ‘The Clown Parade.’ The fifteen track album (fourteen without the intro) is nearly an hour long. Ray has given me the opportunity to tackle the album early; it’ll be out on March 10 on iTunes. It’s a bit too long of a record to handle song by song, so we’ll delve into the highlights of the album.
Ray prefaces this record with the information that he’s an openly gay country artist who writes all of his own content. The songs are one hundred percent his, and they’re about two different relationships Ray had in his life. The album, he explains, is a journey of self discovery. He classifies it as ‘progressive country.’ Onto the record:
The production quality of ‘The Clown Parade’ is immediately apparent from the onset of the record at the introduction and stays strong throughout until the title track at the very end. It’s a beautifully composed record chock-full of wondrous instrumentation, excellent musical performances, and solid mixes. The strong production that crafts the soundscape around Ray’s sound on the record is probably the selling point of the collection.
‘Missouri’ introduces Ray as a vocalist and leader of his ensemble. He’s certainly got that Nashville country twang to his voice. His voice is mature and bold, and in honesty, surprised me a bit since it didn’t look like it could come from the man in the album art. ‘Battle’ is a haunting track about wrestling with your inner demons, elegantly composed with sparse piano and orchestration.
The terrific part about ‘The Clown Parade’ is that it doesn’t feel like a stereotypical contemporary country record. The lyrics are stunningly introspective, resulting in meaningful songs like ‘Addison.’ The record has a bit of a pop-kick to it as well, toying around with pop music elements in tracks like ‘The Fall’ and ‘Loaded Gun.’ The latter is actually my personal favorite track of the record. It’s smart, quirky, punchy, and incorporates the perfect amount of gospel-like choirs and profanity. (Yes, some of the songs on the album may merit an explicit label when they go on sale.)
‘The Clown Parade’ is a great record. Ray manages to break free of nearly all of the stereotypical pitfalls of his genre with new and refreshing ideas. He incorporates a very solid studio band with an array of musical styles that build upon the modernized country sound quite well.
The album, available March 10, was reviewed above in its full capacity. The tracks 'Already Gone' and 'Out of the Blue' will be bonus tracks, making the standard edition of the release 12 tracks plus the introduction.