Jim Clements’ release The Road To Anhedonia is a great example of a musician’s album, and a song writer’s showcase. It seems as Jim has really hit his stride and found a style that suits his skill set brilliantly with this collection.
This album displays Clements’ diversity as a writer and musician. For example, the title track’s bouncy jazzy shuffle percussion and playful piano and bass anchor allows for “just-right” pickin’ on the guitar. But cut to the track “Rings” and you’ll find a beautiful tribute to a relationship in its decline and a pining for the better days of old, accented by two- part male and female vocal harmonies, and a soul churning use of that signature Hammond organ sound.
It’s going to be an absolute shame when this gets labeled a country record and tossed in with everything else out there, because it’s so much more than just some country collection. Jim’s bluegrass influence takes center stage on the song “Stonier Ground.” To be frank, there is a hell of a lot to this record and it’s an absolute clinic on witty lyrics and raw emotion. In the vein of great Memphis blues men such as Franky Stokes and Sleepy John Estes, Clements will make you fall to your knees and thank the Good Lord that it wasn’t YOU who had to endure the heartache and misery the man that wrote this song did… and in the same moment, embrace the camaraderie and brotherhood of someone who can articulate just what you felt on the day she broke your heart.
Strangely nostalgic, songs like “The Whitest Shoes” have a super clean, simple, early Motown sound and beg to be covered by artists from all over the musical map. I rank Jim Clements among some of the finest practitioners of the song writing craft – Roger McGuinn, Derek Webb, Andrew Peterson, even Procol Harum.
While it may be easy to criticize Clement’s vocal styles as lacking in dynamic range, it fits his writing style perfectly. It is beautiful and precise, and much like many of his songs, warm and familiar. After playing this record several times through I am more and more enveloped in the idea of this being an amazing soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon watching a thunderstorm from the comfort of your room. I would love to hear some of these songs used in movies and TV shows, as they lend themselves so readily to mood-setting.
A final word on the tune “Downtown Epilogue,” which closes this album out magnificently. Incredibly moving, this, as far as I’m concerned, is the type of song that could justify retirement. A musical reprise that builds upon itself so perfectly I will be amazed if he tops himself on this one… But I’ll be the first one in line to listen if he ever does. Thanks Jim, for putting your heart into this one – it shows in every song.