Listening in With Jay Clark

Singer/songwriter Jay Clark moved back to Knoxville in October after a few years in Alabama, and he's not wasted any time getting back into the local music scene. Here's what he's been listening to since coming back to town.

Jill Andrews, Jill Andrews (Liam Records, 2009)

Jill's lyrics are honest and sung like an angel. The mellowness is great and accentuated by Josh Oliver's background vocals. I usually don't mess with EPs, but this one is for sure a carrot that is dangling until a full album is released.

Doug and Telisha Williams, Ghost of the Knoxville Girl (No Evil Records, 2009)

This husband-wife duo are good friends of mine and we do a few shows together each year. This is their second recording of original material and it's full of unapologetic honesty. A couple tunes are especially appealing to me, given their mixture of religion and libations ("Last Call," "Unrepentant Sinner's Last Prayer"). Telisha's vocals will just flat out put a hurtin' on you on multiple tracks ("If My Heart," "Learning to Drink Whiskey," "I Wonder"). Furthermore, "20.2," which was inspired by the unemployment rate in their hometown of Martinsville, Va., is a must-listen for anyone who loves shopping at Walmart!

Kathleen Edwards, Failer (Zoe Records, 2003)

Kathleen Edwards' 2008 release, Asking for Flowers, has seen a lot of spins in my CD player during 2009. I think this one might even be better. I suggest turning up the stereo, turning off the TV (or at least putting it on something mindless like the Weather Channel), kicking back in the recliner, and getting a good buzz on. It won't be a wasted 45 minutes.

Blue Mother Tupelo, Heaven and Earth (Diggin' Music, 2009)

Another husband/wife duo I've gotten to know through playing a few festivals together. Although I love this CD, my wife, Stacy, would probably tell you that this is her favorite at the moment. Ricky and Micol Davis have put together a great mixture of original tunes that are full of gospel soul and genuine blues. Ricky's guitar work throughout the record is great but really comes through on "Give It Away/Hard Times." It makes me feel as though I'm somewhere in rural Mississippi on the front porch of some old fallen-down house, sweating like crazy from the heavy heat. And Micol—she not only plays the meanest tambourine ever, she has one of the most genuinely soulful voices, and whether it is a rockin' blues tune or a heartfelt ballad, I do not tire of hearing it.

Kris Kristofferson, Closer to the Bone (New West, 2009)

One of my greatest influences and favorite songwriters, Kris Kristofferson continues to inspire me to write honestly and unapologetically. Musically, this record is much like his 2006 release, This Old Road, which for the most part was a raw, stripped-down recording. I don't see how anyone can sit down and listen to either of his last two records and not say, "Damn, this is good."

Solomon Burke, Nashville (Shout! Factory, 2006)

When Stacy and I have friends over to the house, I have a bad habit of playing DJ in the wee hours of the morning. This involves pulling out a handful of CDs and playing a song here, a song there, some sad, some happy, switching to another CD, repeat. When I put this CD in the changer, I usually just push play and say, "Listen to all of this one." Produced by Buddy Miller and recorded in his living room, Nashville features songs by a hodgepodge of country and Americana artists (Jim Lauderdale, Tom T. Hall, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin, Kevin Welch) and duets with Welch, Dolly Parton, Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Patty Lovelace. You can't fake soul, and if this record doesn't stir your soul, then call a shrink because something ain't right.