When reviewing an album from the Kansas City music scene it only brings a feeling in your gut that you’re about to listen to something that’s generic and overall just not very enjoyable. I mean we have the death metal groups that scream something about…well I don’t know! I can’t understand those lead singers who seem to be testosterone junkies and are mad about something their mother did last week. On the other hand there are the rap artists who just want to be the next Tech Nine or Tupac, but at least we have jazz right? It really is just sad, almost a crime, and at the end of the day it’s just silly that Lawrence, Kansas makes us look like musical hacks; surely we can step up and change this can’t we? Well I have faith and I am so glad to report that Clay Hughes is a step in the right direction.
As soon as I put the album Burn in by Clay Hughes and heard the first track “Mr. Dylan” I knew this album and I were going to have romance at full speed and all preconceived notions should be tossed out the window, this album had a pleasant surprise in store for me. As I continued to listen to the song “Mr. Dylan” I paid close attention to the lyrics, I mean if you’re going to put Bob Dylan’s name in a song you’d better bring some fire that makes you want to put the track on repeat. Somehow Hughes pulled this off, the song made my heart beat faster and I wanted to scream, so I did, I mean why not? It was now a whole minute into the song and it showed that Clay Hughes wrote with passion, this was truly genuine music and there are a lot of artists out there who need to take a cue from Hughes and not just in Kansas City. It’s very ballsy to write lyrics like “the power of the bible being negatively used” in the Midwest, I applaud this, it’s better to go against the current, it will pay off in the end. I’m getting into my poetic nonsense so let’s move on shall we?
I can’t say any of the other songs on the album matched the watermark left by track one but oh well we still had good stuff on our hands. When track 2 “The Truth” began to play I was expecting something powerful (I mean with a name like that) but it was not so much powerful as it was just a good jam and a solid song. The album takes a smart turn with a few tracks like “pointless,” “Some People,” and “Passing Through” with a mixture of folk music and a Jack Johnson feel that seems to appear at the end of every romantic comedy, this really works in that it gets away from the bluesy tracks of the album and gives it an overall balance to the mood.
The tracks that have a touch of blues are great, they abandon traditional “when I get back to Georgia that women going to feel my pain” sounds (even though there is a song called “Georgia Girl”) and take on modern topics like politics to the classic house of blues relationship songs, but I must say, the songs that seem to be about relationships are not straight forward, Hughes leaves a lot of room for interpretation and that’s great, that’s why it’s art. I don’t want to get stones tossed at me but oh well, I would say that Hughes’ blues style is more of a new wave blues just because it takes old styles and combines it with something new and fresh (ha almost wrote “NU” where is my mind now-a-days?). That brings us to the tracks with Rap and this is really one of the only falls of the album, it just does not fit with the rest of the songs. Mike Jones and Bob Dylan do not mix well together, I’m opened minded but let’s face it: folk and rap belong in two different universes. Also it may not be a great idea to put your friends who are completely different, musically than you in your songs or maybe I should just say Hughes has a lot more talent than the other featured artists except for Olivia Stover, she was a welcomed addition in the song “War of Life.”
The only other complaints I have about the album and I can’t stress enough how tiny this complaint is, is that it does get a little repetitive in musical structure. About half way through the album, a few songs on the album sound kind of similar musically and fail to change things up. This is saved by the quality of the lyrics, like I said before Clay Hughes’ passion is in every song and gives every song power to strike emotion in you while you’re listening. Something tells me that the talent of Clay Hughes, if pushed, could do something groundbreaking and not just on a local level. That’s saying something since this is a self produced album.
All in all Clay Hughes’ album Burn is a Local Kansas City treasure especially if you like artists like Jack Johnson or I would say The Flowbots but really no matter what music you enjoy listening to you’re going to get something out of the album. The change in style for the most part keeps the album fresh and organic and I would really like to see more artists doing this instead of being a one trick pony. If half of the artists in Kansas City started to take notes from Hughes then maybe, just maybe Kansas City would be known for more than jazz and Puddle of Mudd, musically that is. If the music industry is just, then Hughes is going to have a bright future and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
I give Clay Hughes 4 “Tambourines” out of 5.