CJ Branch and Mario Crew, ft. Thomas (TC) Clay - 'Sam's Invite #Marababy'

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 morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be delving deep into ‘Sam’s Invite #Marababy,’ a new track by CJ Branch and Mario Crew that features lead vocalist Thomas TC Clay. (Yes, I know that introduction is a mouthful.) The epic single, which clocks in over nine minutes, is a genre-bouncing jaunt through rather fascinating soul and jazz influence. Is its length as unnecessary as the hashtag in its song title? Or does it stand tall in its lengthy glory? Let’s dig in and find out.

I’m typically very apprehensive of tracks this long in the independent music scene. More often than not, they’re just ostentatious and devolve into progressive rock-esque excursions through uninteresting soloing. Very much to my surprise, I’d actually argue that ‘Sam’s Invite #Marababy’ justifies its own runtime with an eclectic display of a variety of very talented people.

During the instrumental sections of ‘Sam’s Invite,’ one is greeted with a cinematic jazz-fusion of rock and roll guitar and dynamic percussion and piano. Seriously, these performers pull their weight. The first four minutes of the song is an endless cascade of fantastic composition backed by Clay’s vocals. He cries out and yelps in ways reminiscent of James Brown, commanding your attention elegantly.

After that four minute mark, CJ Branch stops the music in an odd moment of confusion. “This stuff sounds weird,” he muses. “These guys are playing jazz…” After his brief interruption, the same composition returns with a tighter, funkier delivery. This ensues for about a minute and a half before the track evolves into an entirely new beast.

That new beast is an even tighter instrumental section that toys with some particularly jazzy notions on bass and piano. The beat is sharp, and it leads the listener out of the track well. I do have a qualm, though. Clay’s presence on the first four minutes is superb. When he’s left in the dust, the band’s musical banter gets a tad old in the last minute or two of the piece.

All things considered, this is really one mammoth of a single. It’s excellent through and through. I just wish Clay had more of a presence throughout the track. The mix may be a bit harsh on headphones, too. Here in the studio, I noticed the later instrumental sections peaking out the entire time. That’s never good news for earbud listeners.

Check out the track; it’s really wonderful and very much worth your time.