Unconditional

Clay Davidson

Virgin Records, 2000

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_Davidson

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/13/2000

In the nicest form of the word, Clay Davidson is a musical mutt.

You can hear the influences ringing through his debut album Unconditional. There's the rock-soaked rhythms of Lynyrd Skynyrd peppered throughout the disc, as well as the hell-bent country-fried attitude of Travis Tritt. But there's also a little touch of thoughtfulness a la Garth Brooks. Put this together, and you have a debut that succeeds more often than it slips - though one ends up hoping Davidson quickly develops his own unique style.

Certainly the musical influences being at the forefront help to make nbtc__dv_250 Unconditional approachable and easy on the ears. The first three songs hit the listener like Mike Tyson rabbit punches, starting with the good-ol-time number "Makin' Hay" and the Skynyrd-influenced "I Can't Lie To Me."

But the real grenade lies in the title track, a number which has gotten a lot of deserved attention. I almost never watch Country Music Television, but I actually stopped and watched the video for this amazing song from start to finish. The way that Davidson delivers the goods on this song (which, to be fair, he didn't write) is what really seals the deal, resulting in one of the most powerful country music songs in a long time.

The difficulty is that it sometimes feels like Davidson used the three strongest weapons in his arsenal to kick off Unconditional. The bulk of the album, while anything but disappointing, doesn't always carry the same kind of emotional spark that the first ten minutes has. Tracks like "Plain Ol' Pain," "What Was I Thinking Of," "My Best Friend And Me" and "Doghouse Rights" all lean more on the side of average - something I wouldn't have expected after the opening of the disc.

And there are times where it seems like Davidson leans a little too much on his influences. "We're All Here" is more than a little Hank Williams, Jr.-based, and while it is a fittingly raucous way to close the disc, it doesn't quite feel original.

All of these points, mind you, are things that a young artist such as Davidson can easily improve on with time and touring. Given the right guiding hands and the proper seasoning on the road, Davidson could well be the next crossover superstar of the genre. Right now, he's definitely a star, but he's not at the finish line... yet.

Unconditional is a decent first effort that shines more not because of the strong opening, but because of the promise of better things from Davidson. Until that happens, he should most definitely enjoy the fruits of his effort -- but he should know that people will be expecting much more from him with his next disc.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.