To say the The Clay States are just a musical duo is to do them a disservice. Though Stephen Collins and Lauren Little are the sole members of this band, when Collins plays guitar, cello and ukulele on all the songs and combines with Little on, you’ve got a band of two that sounds like five. Both hail from Alabama, and they named the band as an homage to not only their Southern culture but the dust that, in a poetic way, we all come from. Their music permeates the air, like the dust from the red dirt that permeates our land. If you’ve ever dug in the Alabama clay, you know how rich in color it is. Similarly, The Clay Slates rich and colorful music lingers with you once you hear it. Collins and Little affectionately refer to their style as “experimental country”, “historical country” or my personal favorite “Antebellum Americana”. That’s a terminology of their own creation and it fits quite well.
When I listen to songs like “Eli Whitney”, I’m feel thrown back to the early 1900’s, as if riding on horseback through the woods or crossing a lazy river. Able & Shiphrah is intense and breathtaking. Those songs are off their first EP, the self-titled The Clay States. Listen to this collection of songs and you’ll here the result of an organic process born out of experimenting in the dark of night. That’s when so much of the music was conceived as Collins and Little worked late writing, rehearsing and trying new ways to get their sound just right. Steven describes those late night sessions as “historical shadows, things not of yourself, things that have been and yet to come”.
The Clay States did not stumble upon their sound. There is an obvious intent to their music, and a beautiful formality that’s natural, melodic, thoughtful and has a tinge of classic country twang. These are songs a twenty-year-old music fan could listen to with an 80-year-old music fan and both equally enjoy. Collins’ voice is forcefully smooth and raspy at the same time while Little’s voice is lilting and strong. It ebbs and flows throughout the songs and on Able & Shiphrah, is operatic in comparison with the country sound it’s paired with. Not too many people have harmonies as unified as the Clay States. Sometimes you can hardly tell they’re two singers and they seem like one voice simultaneously making multiple sounds. The Slay Slates first album was accompanied by a solo guitar, and their second collection is purposely minimal as far as instrumentation, but no matter if they sing along to one instrument, four or none, The Clay States create some of the most genuine music you will have the pleasure of listening to.
For music and more info, please visit www.theclaystates.com.
The Clay States, along with War Jacket and Joel Madison Blount, will be performing at a house concert hosted by Lauren Nicholson on Father’s Day afternoon. Bring your father, kids and anyone who loves good music. The show is at 4:00 and is a POTLUCK! There is a suggested $10 donation at the door to support these fine musicians. If you can’t afford $10, pay what you can and they’ll see you on Sunday June 17th, Father’s Day!
The house address is 1857 Buttercup Drive Hoover, Al. 35226