Album Review: 'Our Family' by The Clout Trio

The allure of over-composition is a trap almost every songwriter and composer has contended with at some point; that sinking suspicion that one has overwrought the work is all too recognizable. It is one of the hallmarks of unseasoned musicians, who easily confuse skill and flexibility with virtuosic, if not self-important showiness. How the Cloud Trio has managed to circumvent any hint of this fatal but understandable flaw is a bit of a wonder. These young musicians take versatility in stride while holding admirably to the “KISS principle”, a rule every songwriter would do well to remember in those moments of creative trepidation. For those of you who are not aware of the term, KISS stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”, and although this acronym is attributed to the Navy circa 1960, it was popularized across media of all types throughout the 60s. Of particular note is this concept’s importance the sound that became known as Motown Soul, and would become a guide for the music of such legends as Marvin Gaye.

History lesson over, back to the band.

The Clout Trio doubles as a studio/backing band, and performs as an ensemble in their own right. Alex Hassell on guitar, Jordan Holiman on the drums, and Shane Perryman on bass form that classic core recognizable in almost all of the contemporary music we hear today. These three instrumental basics: guitar, bass, and drums, represent the cornerstone that vocals rely on to shine. In this genre of music, the individuality of the singer and the whimsy of the voice is meant to be uplifted, rather than compete with the instrumentalists’ personalities. How appropriate, then, that the Trio’s collaborations have been with singers who are utterly themselves in their technique and style.

Their album “Our Family”, just released late last month, features the talents of Jeremiah Percival, Des Monroe, and Joshua Loner. Building on the blues and without heavy instrumentation or orchestration to hide behind, each voice is allowed expressive space. Jeremiah Percival takes full advantage of the band’s deft support by tapping into the best tradition of stripped down soul. His unadulterated tone is like suede, soft and strong, exemplary of the R&B we would want to find in our favorite grandparent’s music collection. Des Monroe brings a new meaning to the word “effortless”. She is at ease in her voice, giving the impression that she knows exactly where she wants to go vocally and then simply goes there; a feat that would be impossible without the band’s ability to lay down such seamless structure for her to play off of. Joshua Loner stretches the boundaries of their range without ever quite over-extending themselves into that self-indulgent realm of unique for unique’s sake. They are unafraid to be challenging, and the trio rises to that challenge. It is a testament to the trio that the end result is an album with an emulsified sound.

The Clout Trio achieves the successful cross-section of a studio band and performing band par excellence. This is no-frills music. It does not tell you how to feel. It does not try to be fancy or grasp at originality. Even the song titles are more a suggestion than an imperative. The listener, like the guest singers, is allowed room to form the impressions they desire as they come. You can check out the album on Spotify and remember to follow them on Facebook and Instagram.