Clay Harper has a history of working with a lot of well-known artists, many of which really need no mention because everyone has heard of them. But this release, Dirt Yard Street, changes that if you are aware of him or not, and it is a surprisingly great collection of smooth and refreshing unplugged tracks. The album has a true campfire fell to it, with an overall epic outcome on most what are basically self-penned folk numbers about the street and what goes down around him lately. Folk and Americana lovers will both find this to be and enormously satisfying release.
In the ‘80s Clay Harper started a band called The Coolies, and his band Ottoman Empire marked the beginning of an ongoing friendship and collaboration with Stiff Record’s legendary Wreckless Eric. And there is so much more to know, but it does help the first time you hear Dirt Yard Street because it explains why you are not listening to a new- comer on the scene. It gets underway with “Dirt Yard Street” itself, wasting no time in the direction of where the album concept lies, and it immediately establishes a calm environment as he sings about his surrounding atmosphere.
“A Poem On A Pillow” is a piano ballad that takes things in a more musical direction with a brilliant piece of work that actually moves you, which is a long lost art form. I fell in love with the album before this track was even over, it is one of the better moments on the remarkable Dirt Yard Street album. But there is so much more going on with these eight laid back but very intense numbers. “Life In A Windowsill” displays even more of what that means once you are able to wrap your head around this music.
“A Car I Remember,” is a song that shares reflections from the view of a remembered car, which is really-just the theme of the song with several tales in it. This is where Clay shows his musical chops and does not look back, with each song having something to say. “All The Mail Comes To Neighbor” even has a lot of that same standard in which this marvelous songwriter is good for. It just takes you away to that old place where music used to take everyone, that place where it should always be and should have never left from in the first place.
“Maybe I’ll Be There” is probably the most depressing song on Dirt Yard Street, but without this brooding song it would not be complete, and if you really key into it you’ll find it helps keep the two surrounding songs going. But “Come To My House” wins this record for me, with a song that makes it all worthwhile to hear and offer up an opinion about. You really get his philosophy by now, and it makes way for a great closer on “Somewhere There’s A Fire Waiting,” which is a song about memories we wish we could forget. All in all, Dirty Yard Street is a trip down the right road.
by Bethany Page