Nashville-based singer/songwriter Scott Clay is on his sixth (!) LP. Jade is a collection of eleven “complex but uncomplicated” songs that offer a thorough exploration of the genre of Americana and all its intricacies. Driven mainly by acoustic guitar, these songs meander, float, and occasionally sizzle with flourishes of whistling organ; electric guitar crunch; pianos; harps; and anything else you can probably think of. Atop it all sits Clay’s down-home voice, baritone, twangy, and powerful in its delivery.

The album kicks off with one of its best offerings, the slow stomp of “One For The Road.” A dirge-like tempo is offset by the sheer longing that can be heard in every chord strum – every swirling organ texture, mandolin pluck, and crunchy guitar chord feels completely intentional here. Scott’s soulful vocals paint a beautiful picture of a simpler, slower-paced life somewhere idyllic:

Out here today driving again
All the others speed by but I’ve got time to spend…
As the radio plays
I get lost in the day

The song itself is a masterwork in crescendo, gradually adding instrument after instrument until a oh-oh-soaked chorus blooms into your earbuds like a spring flower. Every inch of this track is packed full of nuance – listen carefully and you can hear a brushed snare drum whispering quietly in the background. Clay certainly knows how to grip listeners right from the get-go – this one gets our nod for album favorite.

Song two, “Wildfire,” slips into a mid-to-late ’90s singer/songwriter mode, bringing to mind acts like Hootie and the Blowfish, Dave Matthews Band, and Counting Crows. It’s not quite as gut-wrenching as the song before it, but when the electric guitars and bongos kick in around the minute mark, you’ll be wishing you were twirling in a field somewhere during a summer concert series. You can hear this simmering ’90s flavor on “World Gone Crazy” too – a menacing bassline drives this jam-influenced song, finding Clay experimenting with quicker tempos, swung percussion, and an auto-wah guitar solo. “Burning For You” falls into this spectrum too – a story about a close friend’s significant other whose stint in rehab led to an eventual breakup. While the subject matter is poignant and the song itself hits your ears with a minor chord sensibility, the big pop chord progression and omni-relatable chorus lyrics makes it feel like you’ve known this song your entire life.

While there’s lots to enjoy here, it’s clear that the gentle ballad is Clay’s bread and butter. His passionate vocals and attention to detail suit the slower tempos found throughout Jade, which is, through and through, a peaceful and nostalgic listen. Title track “Jade” ascends and descends nimbly before breaking into a chorus that feels tailor-made for adult contemporary radio. The heart-stopping intro of “Lightning Strikes” feels so stark and gripping that you could hear a pin drop in the background – mid-song Clay surprises you with a tempo shift and a feel change, exploding into one of the most riveting moments on the album (“Lightning” was a very close call for album favorite). “The Painter” is another standout – its gentle acoustic guitar plucking and lovelorn lyrics set off by tasteful, far-off guitar noise.

At eleven songs in length, there’s plenty left of Jade left to discover for yourself – check out “One For The Road” (and the rest of the album) via Bandcamp below, or, add it to your queue for your next Spotify or Apple Music sesh.

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