I’ve been watching and listening to Clay Cook for years. The first time I ever heard any of his music I was at his Grandmother’s home, doing interviews for a book I was writing about his uncle, her son, Doug Gray. The late Peggy Gray was so very proud of her son’s accomplishments with The Marshall Tucker Band, but at one point her attention turned to her grandson, and soon she was playing some demos of music he had written and played. I was honestly taken aback. At the time, Clay was really young, but he sounded like a ten year rock and roll veteran. The guy has always had the talent, whether playing solo, or in duet with Chris Hicks or writing with John Mayer, touring with The Marshall Tucker Band, or his current gig with The Zac Brown Band, this multi-instrumentalist always brings it. Such is the case with his solo album The Year I Grew Up.
Not only did Cook write all of these songs, he sang them, produced them and played all of the instruments. The product of a couple of years work, the record is truly a work of art.
Upbeat pop songs like “Going Through The Changes” are featured alongside the excellent mid-tempo groove of “Kryptonite” and perhaps the finest song on the album, “Losertown,” a song that brings to mind fellow southern songwriter Shawn Mullins.
Much like Paul Thorn’s albums, you just can’t find a bad song if you try. All thirteen cuts are well written, great melodies and excellent, heartfelt lyrics. And as anyone in the music business can tell you, it really is all about great songs.
“Prophet” rocks with an almost U2 quality and “Lightning in a Bottle” is another standout track that just has to be heard to be appreciated. It’s hard to put into words.
“What I want to do and what I was meant to do/ Oh, they’re not the same.”
Introspective, powerful and personal. Putting the soul out on the line. That’s what I like about Clay’s writing.
The title track closes out the set. “The Year I Grew Up” is a beautiful, Beatlesque tune that just acts as the cherry on top of this fine Southern artist’s solo record. A brilliant, beautiful thing.
-Michael Buffalo Smith