The Clay States' "Cynosure" is a deeply Southern sound

Hailing from Birmingham, folk/country quartet The Clay States is a band primal in both sound and energy. Cerebral and stripped bare, The Clay States’ fourth release, “Cynosure”, is Faulkner’s Southern Gothic made into music. With only three tracks, The Clay States reach across genres and emotions.

“The Gathering” opens with a sparse banjo, soon joined by the incessant low crawl of a violin. Stephen Collins joins in, his voice pained and raspy; Lauren Collins mirrors him with a sort of distant wail that contributes to the ethereal suspense that is “The Gathering”. “Who’s that knocking at the door?” Collins asks, “Don’t let them inside/ vultures gather with the corpses/ now don’t look inside.” Though what deathly event befell the mountainside inhabitants is unclear, the poignant instrumentation and vocals of The Clay States depict pain and sorrow perfectly.

Gone is the veil of gloom on “Rose Hymn”, the second track. Exuding a sort of frontier comfort, “Rose Hymn” paints a picture of rural bliss with lyrical imagery, a warm acoustic guitar and Appalachian violin. The Collins’ duet goes from fearful to romantic as they sing “She would fill/ my decanters/ and canteens with whiskey and wine/ and most nights/ before we pray/ she slows me down and says/ honey hey/ play that old hymn/ the one about the rose.”

“Cynosure” reaches a dramatic crescendo with the final track, “Persian Gown”. Stephen sings alone and with a gritty twang, a sort of raw anger beneath. Short guitar strums give way to a moody violin and eerie piano as the track builds with emotion. Almost as if the restrained performances on the previous songs was finally released, “Persian Gown” erupts towards the end, carried by the power of Collins vocals. He sings: “Oyster dust on the sea, they call to me my love/ drinking the light from a Persian gown so soft it weighs me down/ so soft I start to drown."

“Cynosure” can be listened to here:

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