Jake Clayton has recently joined the Home Grown Music fold after 8 years playing for artists of note in the Country and Western arena of the music business. He has developed quite a reputation as a "utility player" in these acts, and brings expertise in over 20 musical instruments to the fray with the release of the instrumental "Barnyard Stomp." Clayton is currently based in Nashville, TN and plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, bass, dobro and other instruments with expertise and precision. He plays every instrument (minus drums and the occasional electric guitar passage) on the album, and does so with passion, intensity and aplomb. The album is marked by a sort of doppelganger quality. Garrulous, rowdy sprints are paired against methodical, yearning passages. This sort of variety ably demonstrates Clayton's expert skills on a wide array of instruments, and he offers an excellent assortment of moods and tracks in the songs recorded for "Barnyard Stomp."
"Barnyard Stomp" storms out of the gates with the infectious, likable title track. Clayton offers excellent chops on guitar, fiddle, and pedal steel in this track, which sets the stage nicely for the rest of the album. "Kickin' Up Dust" offers a similar array of technical prowess, with a dash of banjo, mandolin and guitar "power chords" added to the mix. Clayton's biography reveals that he considers himself a fiddle player first, and this track offers ample evidence to support the claim. "Finger Pickin' Good" and "Dia's Hoedown" offer more contemplative poses, providing a nice counterpoint to the more unbridled quality of the album's first two tracks. Clayton offers a nice turn on mandolin in "Dia's Hoedown," then pairs that with a spirited run on the fiddle. One of my favorite tracks on the album is the amazing "Clovershine," which prompts one to dance an Irish jig, and jump around like a hornswoggled madman. This track begins in subdued, moody waters, and then ambles forward with a lilting, uplifting run on fiddle; Clayton's banjo adds extra layers of delicious medley to the track. The enthusiastic strains of rollicking banjo summon one forward in "Get 'Em Boyz," while Clayton's fiddle and mandolin fill out the body of the song with enthusiasm and verve.
The album takes another introspective turn with the pensive, yearning tones of "Love Notes & Lullabies," while Clayton sheds such pensive arrangements for the enthusiastic guitar passages of "Catch .22." A barking dog barking signals the onset of "Close Encounters (of the 4/4 Kind)" and this track rumbles forward with sophistication, even as Clayton's guitar squeals and squawks. Eerie, effervescent passages contribute to an "otherworldly" quality, and the track closes with fervor. Clayton's violin to begin "Drunken Matador" wails in precise, meditated fashion, until Troy Luccketta's drum ratchets up in intensity. The song, as with all the other tracks on this album, features dynamic instrumental work and excellent, layered arrangements. The album demonstrates Clayton's immense skills with many different instruments, but it is important to note Rob Daniels' contributions for the track "Rock Slide." Daniels offers his chops on electric guitar for this track (and the title track) and this contribution is notable. Daniels also makes a distinct impression throughout the album by sharing song arrangement duties with Clayton, and the value of this tandem is clearly evident in the moving tracks of "Barnyard Stomp." The album closes with the moody, haunted lines of "Lights Out."
In an effort to adequately describe "Barnyard Stomp," I am moved to call this recording the "penultimate studio album." I guess when one possesses the skill set of Jake Clayton, one might be inclined towards megalomania in the recording studio. Why share responsibilities with other musicians when you can obviously outplay anyone on any instrument? But the tracks on "Barnyard Stomp" prove to be revelatory in places, and downright fun in others. Upon opening the CD package and placing the CD in its player, one sees a picture of Clayton perched in front of his arsenal of weapons. I can't even name the whole array of instruments Clayton uses in this album, but Clayton plays them all with vivacity and tenacious expertise. For someone who appreciates the beauty of "modern bluegrass," equipped with both disarmingly fun pieces, and those that are more brooding, polished, and methodical, "Barnyard Stomp" is highly recommended, and will prove to be a sterling addition to your own music collection.
- J Evan Wade