Just Another Story

Clay Hess Band

Pinecastle Records, 2018


REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Clay Hess has long been known and respected in the bluegrass community as the lead guitarist for Ricky Skaggs and his Grammy winning group Kentucky Thunder. In 2012, Hess formed his own band to great reviews. This latest offering presents a diverse mix of Americana spanning the old and new with a sound that respects the roots of bluegrass while keeping a modern flare.

From the very first track “Cold and Lonely,” we are treated to a solid banjo and mandolin coming in front and center, and then an amazing baritone vocal sets the mood instantly. Hess has the ability to sing from baritone up to tenor, but by far his baritone is the strongest. “Next Train To Anywhere” complements this vocal range as well and has a beautiful melodic banjo rolling in the background, along with wonderful guitar and mandolin solos. It’s definitely a standout track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Someplace In France” is where the album finds its title phrase. It is a classic storytelling song that bluegrass and Americana music do so well, recounting the story of a man who lost his twin brother someplace in France in 1944. The song has a slow take off, but grows on the listener in successive listens. “Heat Of The Morning” is a song of lost love that contains compelling lyrics and a beautiful arrangement that boasts guitar and tastefully placed background vocals that swell the song. 

Hearkening back to the roots of bluegrass, Hess updates Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel #2.”  Those familiar with the career of the country music pioneer (think “T is for Texas, T is for Tennessee”), will know that Rodgers recordings really bring out that high tenor, nasal delivery common in many early country and bluegrass artists. Hess takes it down a few notches, keeping the song in a strong baritone key that makes the song very pleasant. In another nod to country’s classics, the final track “Anita, You’re Dreaming,” written and recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1965, stand up well to the bluegrass treatment. In fact, it perhaps stands stronger than the crooning original version.

Hess should solidify his position as a frontman with Just Another Story.  His song selection is eclectic and the band he has put together is powerful. Look forward to more from this group.

Rating: A-

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