It has to be said, that my family, as a whole, doesn’t embrace modern technology too well.

When I was a kid, we were the last people in the world to get a VCR, the last to buy a TV and not rent one, and we were the last people in the world to get Netflix.

We finally caved in September last year, and the first thing I watched on the platform? With myriad shows, films and documentaries at my fingertips? The first thing that went on my telly (not a smart one, either, in case you were wondering) was the Credence Clearwater Revival documentary, its brilliant too.

Listening to “Long Way From Home” as I have over the last week or so, something tells me that J’D Clayton might approve of both the eschewing of the modern world (I remain the only person who owns a music website and views the internet with disdain) and the choice of viewing when I finally caved.

There’s a timeless quality to his music. Unfussy, real, hewn from the rock of the USA, just the same as anything John Fogarty ever did – but there’s such a universal skill to the songwriting that it’ll appeal wherever it’s heard.

“Hello, Good Mornin’” is probably the most relaxed start to any record this year. Bird song, the sun streaming in through the windows, as Clayton feels invigorated by the southern air. In that respect, it’s tempting to think of the stomping blues of “American Millionaire” as a companion piece. “Monday morning ’round 6am” goes the opening line, as if to underline its working class credentials. It’s noticeable that he’s not bragging. Merely, “I am working my way to be one of the greats”.

He’s paid them dues too. From singing in his church to writing songs in Nashville (where he and his wife now live) and its all come out on his debut album (there was an EP, then the pandemic happened). There’s a glorious innocence about “Beauty Queen” too, “you always leave me wanting more like Nana’s chocolate pie” he sings, and it sounds like the most natural thing in the world.

“Goldmine” is more country, and expertly done too, but the wonderful Americana of the title cut is as good as it gets. The steel guitar wails as he reflects on his new life as a singer/songwriter, and its perfectly balanced “I can’t just stop now”, he offers mournfully, as he battles homesickness, with the thought “these dreams of mine don’t end”.

And those dreams seem to drive the whole thing. The guitar work on “Heartaches After Heartbreak” almost recalls Whiskey Myers, while “Cotton Candy Clouds” is from an entirely different place.  This is, by and large, its fair to say, a very American sounding record, but this one is from an English air. It hints that Clayton is nowhere done.

Clayton writes eight of these. He co-writes one and there’s a trad cover to round it out. Interestingly, as well, he manages to find a slightly different angle to “Midnight Special” – and that takes some doing.

Mostly, though, this sounds contented. There’s no dreaming of what you can’t achieve, instead, it makes the best of what its got. The characters here on “Different Kind Of Simple Life” for example, are so non-descript, they don’t really have any stories to tell. That’s the point. These are real people, people like Jack Miller on the last one “Sleepy Night In Nashville”, part spoken word, like the troubadours of yore.

That’s perfect for J.D Clayton too. He’s not reinventing the wheel and I’d bet you he doesn’t want to. Instead, he’s a man a “Long Way From Home” trying to tell his stories. In doing so, he’s added his own page to the Great American Songbook.

Rating 8.5/10

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