“Long Way From Home,” JD Clayton (Mulberry Records)
Singer-songwriter JD Clayton brings an earnestness to his promising full-length debut album, “Long Way From Home,” that makes you want to forgive him for the occasional cliche.
Clayton, a northwest Arkansas native, is so forthright in his delivery that it feels easy to let him slide when things get corny. And there’s enough intriguing material here to make him an artist to watch in the space between country and Americana anyway.
At his best when he is singing what he knows, Clayton offers two tracks on his struggles to make it in the Nashville music scene. They range from the jaunty confidence of “American Millionaire” (he vows to become one when he becomes “one of the greats”) to the less brash but more original title cut, the album’s sturdiest song.
Singing directly to his mother back home on the latter, Clayton traffics in the predictable when he says his dreams won’t die. But when he confesses that he might have a better shot if he would lose a little weight, you get the sense that the sentiments are heartfelt.
Ultimately, that’s how Clayton overcomes the tropes — by plowing straight through them. Even when the sentiments are conventional — “You’re the only girl who’s ever set my heart free,” he sings on “Beauty Queen” — he lives inside his songs.
His stated influences of rockers like Creedence Clearwater Revival aren’t too subtle to hear. A cover of the classic “Midnight Special,” for example, hews closer to the CCR version than the one Leadbelly made famous. It’s not a revelation, but the singing and playing demonstrates the sure-footedness of Clayton and his band.
That doesn’t make him a millionaire yet, but it does leave you curious about what he might do next.
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