This was the album I was reticent to review, and the reason is simple: the first song is perhaps the weakest on the album. It left a bad initial impression on me, but once I left Dawes County and its bad take on a whole slew of “my little home town sucks and I’m leaving it in the rearview mirror” country songs I started to feel a little better about this July release from the Denver-based Cass Clayton Band.
It’s not the easiest collection to pigeonhole, and perhaps that was the intent. I detected more of a cool jazz influence on the next two tracks (Little Things and the title song, Play Nice) but that slowly yielded to where I thought the album shined the most: a trio of songs (B Side, No Use In Crying, and Tattered and Torn) which nicely straddle a tightrope between that little bit of jazzy-influenced singing and instrumentation more reminiscent of gospel-tinged southern rock and blues. This comes back for an encore in the finale, Strange Conversation.
Unfortunately, the songs toward the end suffer a bit from various factors: the odd cadence of You’ll See and the depressingly trite The Most Beautiful bring things down a bit; however, Doesn’t Make Sense almost takes things back. But I just couldn’t get into Flowers At My Feet and really didn’t see the purpose of adding the brief Slow Kiss before the finale.
Overall I can’t say “Play Nice” is a bad album at all. One thing it accomplished was putting the image of the live band on stage in my mind and getting me to think that they would indeed put on a pretty good show. (Another possible drawback to the album was Clayton’s usage of studio players in lieu of her touring band.) She does play a lot of shows in her home region, so there is a modest fanbase in place. Honestly, I’m of the opinion that, if this album was re-created as a live record it possibly could have flirted with a top 3 spot – the studio made it sound too cold and sterile.
But “Play Nice” will serve as the swan song for my album reviews, as I’m stepping away from that scene after almost six years and about 100 or so reviews. I just think it’s time to move on from here.
So, as I’ve almost always said, don’t take my word for it: I encourage you to listen for yourself. And thank you again for all the listening you have done. One last monoblogue music top 5 for 2019 will come on December 28.