“In a world where artistry would be predictably honored, Clay Parker and Jodi James would be right up there at the top of the list. I love everything about them…songs, music, harmony…everything.” – Jorma Kaukonen
“Clay Parker and Jodi James are not an ‘act.’ They are two stellar performing songwriters making whatever sacrifice necessary to share their art… because they believe it's important. It is. Listen to 'em… let 'em move you… you’ll agree.” – Verlon Thompson
Driving along the rattle-gravel roads of some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town between where you are going and where you’ve been, you will sometimes come across a roadside rummage shop. You’ll pull over for the promise of local honey and heirloom tomatoes painted casually on a plank nailed crookedly to the slanted porch of what was once a house but is now stacked to the rafters with artifacts -- curiosities of times gone by -- ruins and relics priced for the picking. It is this feeling of scraping through the ripped screen door, rifling through rare ephemera, and holding each corked bottle up to the mote-flecked light that Clay Parker and Jodi James capture with their genre-blending brand of sonic storytelling.
Before their artistic paths converged in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in late 2014, Parker and James roamed the musical landscape as lone troubadours, each nurturing their own raw and genuine sound. Now, almost a decade after their first long-distance co-writing collaborations, the distinct sound of the duo has maintained a minimalist yet mercurial quality -- in part by reflecting the ways the artists themselves have changed both together and as individuals. They jokingly refer to themselves as "a band without a name," yet it is this designation of two separate identities that best describes their particular synergy; and the sweetest harmony resides in their ability to abide their own personalities while creating something entirely fresh that is continuously evolving. As noted by Wide Open Country, “It’s an example of two capable solo acts combining forces to discover new ways to celebrate regional roots sounds while creating something markedly modern." With James' country-soul reactiveness and Parker's blue and winding reflectiveness, the resulting sound is a blackout bingo card of Americana.
Clay Parker and Jodi James create worlds within their records by populating each song with points of view that are archetypical yet unique. With their third official release, Your Very Own Dream, the pair hone this technique to a razor’s edge. Even while having abandoned the traditional acoustic arrangements of their previous releases The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound (2018) and their self-titled debut EP (2016), the concoction is equal parts plaintive folk existentialism, blue-note bluster, prairie-fire idealism, and fever-dream ballad. They have again delivered compelling songs that solicit repeated listens to decode -- the kind where everyone ciphers a separate conclusion and every supposition is correct. With Your Very Own Dream, Parker and James cast a spell with lyrical riddles distilled into poignant realism. The listener is invited to pull at the thread of each story told without the promise of finding a tidy bow when they get to the end. In Parker’s own words, “...a tune can be worth singing or a rhyme worth landing without linearity being a necessity." It's these puzzles -- these sleight-of-hand mysteries -- that have captivated audiences all across the country and even piqued the curiosity of Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna): “In a world where artistry would be predictably honored, Clay Parker and Jodi James would be right up there at the top of the list. I love everything about them…songs, music, harmony…everything.”
Noting the duo's heady baritone and crystal bell-tone incantations, Rolling Stone Magazine once aptly described their sound as “mesmerizing back porch music.” Glide Magazine offered a similar sentiment in a review of their 2019 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival performance, dubbing them "Artist of the Day" and commenting, "[Clay Parker and Jodi James] performed a beautiful set... with sweet sounds of artists with things on their minds and the talent to back it up." Years of rigorous touring have proven that Parker and James are just as at home on festival stages or under theater lights as they are in the most intimate of listening rooms or concert houses, and they instinctively adjust their dynamic to fit the occasion. They seem to shrug at flash and hype, and the musical depth of their live show relies solely on the bare necessities: two voices, two guitars, and one amplifier sitting stoically between them. Yet every whispered guitar trill and every lofty vocal harmony seems to lead their audiences near-hypnotically into a common breathing pattern.
Clay Parker and Jodi James consistently present music that carves a most-direct, excess-free path to its listeners and patiently displays the duo's true nature as creators of a primitive kind of beauty -- stark yet expressive, accessible yet deep, shadowy yet real. It is within this primitive beauty, tucked in the sticks far off from the highway, stacked between those shaky rafters, dusty and nearly forgotten, where a person can perhaps find something they've always known but only just discovered.