Clinton Curtis grew up between the islands of Jamaica and Key West, Florida, the son of musicians and reggaehall owners. As a kid, he played with and learned from some of the Jamaican giants – Gregory Isaacs, Desmond Dekker and Roots Explosion. His mother and father were pioneers of the Jamaican live music scene, managing and promoting many top reggae artists. Clinton was always eager to learn from musicians, and they were happy to teach him. He was an accomplished classical pianist by age 8. By 13, he was fluent on more than a dozen instruments.
At age 18, Clinton moved to New York and began working as a singer while studying acting at NYU. It was there, in Greenwich Village, in the bars and clubs that defined so much of music history, that he realized he wanted to write popular music. He took to it feverishly, writing dozens of songs a month. He teamed up with producer Matt Stine, and signed to indie label 27 Sound. Currently, Clinton and his band are a fixture in the downtown NY music scene.
Clinton is credited with having the largest crowd ever at the famous Lower East Side venue, The Livingroom, where he plays every month.
Clinton also appeared on FOX's Fearless Music TV, where he won the most votes of any other act and was brought back by viewers to play the TV show two weeks in a row. Those performances still remain in the top 10 most watched videos on the Fearless Music website.
Clinton's music represents the coming together of all the musical genres he has been exposed to throughout his life. From Country to Reggae, from Blues to Bach, Clinton Curtis is a throwback to the great songwriters of the 1960's with the musical versatility and voice of a new artist set on making his mark on today's popular music landscape.
Clinton Curtis- Songs, Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Organ, Bass, Percussion.
Justin Levine- Piano, Organ, Wurlitzer Piano, Backing Vocals.
Arthur Sadowsky- Bass
Kevin Garcia- Drums
Liana Stampur- Backing Vocals
Miss Elisabeth- Backing Vocals
Smoldering Youth, Released 2008. 27 Sound Entertainment.
Welcome To Rocker Key, Released 2009 27 Sound Entertainment.
2nd Avenue Ball
Chain U Down
History of Dust
Bound To Be Better
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Clinton Curtis grew up around reggae music, as his parents were promoters and managers for top... Clinton Curtis grew up around reggae music, as his parents were promoters and managers for top level reggae artists, such as Gregory Isaacs and Desmond Dekker. But you’d never guess this after listening to the hot “Smoldering Youth”, the track that opens Curtis’ debut album of the same name. On it, Curtis applies smoking Fender electric guitar licks that bring to mind Elvis Presley at his rocking-ist. Reggae enters into the picture during “Jump this Ship”, however, before filling out the whole frame of “Revolution (Turns Sofia On)”. On the latter track, soulful organ trades notes with chugging electric guitar, while wandering bass and thumping drums lead the way for a truly authentic island sound.
Curtis obviously learned his lessons well from observing all the talented musicians around him growing up. He also plays bass, piano, organ, clavinet, harmonica, accordion, drums, and saxophones. He also sings in a delightfully unique way, which brings to mind Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham one moment, then Billy Joel the next. He’s comfortable rocking out completely, as is demonstrated by “Smoldering Youth”, yet perfectly comfortable during the hushed “Not In Vain”. Curtis returns again to his acoustic guitar for “Honest Land”, which also closes out the CD.
Lyrically, Curtis has a strong dosage of Bruce Springsteen-the-storyteller in him. Songs like “Mexican Scandal” contain details only he can completely comprehend. “Jasper should be on the street, packing up my old car,” he tells us. “But Jasper drank himself off his feet, at Mayor Ferdie’s bar,” he continues. Who is Jasper? We may never know. Nevertheless, we are hopeful about figuring out “Miss Aretha”, the very next tune. Certainly, it’s an ode to the Queen of Soul, right? Nope, no such luck. Instead, when this number is put to a jazzy groove worthy of Steely Dan, Aretha turns out to be a much more anonymous girl. Even so, Steely Dan’s “Hey 19” prominently name dropped the Aretha Franklin. Yet with all of its supposed soul singer connections, these clues only lead to a dead end cold trail.
By the way, Curtis can be more than a little cryptic lyrically, as happens on this disc’s title cut. “We were a wonder/We were a burning bush/We were a minstrel show/We were the last to know.” This might well be about the music business, which is sometimes little more than a cruel minstrel show. But it could also concern the sapped enthusiasm of youth culture. But as with most talented lyricists, Curtis is wise to leave a whole lot to the imagination, which might make you frustrated, might make you intrigued.
“Crawfish Hole” starkly contrasts with “Miss Aretha” earlier, as it trades relative studio slickness for a loose, blues-soul feel. This one prominently features plentiful New Orleans piano, harmonica, and playful backing vocals.
Smoldering Youth is a startling debut. Whereas many musicians come off like diamonds in the rough during much of their virgin efforts, Curtis sounds ready for the world from the very get-go. His guitar playing is lyrical and emotional, and his voice makes you pay attention to every word. There are times, in fact, when he brings another special artist to mind, John Hiatt. These are only mere hints of Hiatt, however, because Curtis is true original and one to keep a close eye on. Smoldering Youth is the work of one hot kid.
-- Dan MacIntosh
"True Spirit of Indie Music"
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Clinton Curtis embodies the true spirit of indie music. He rocks his semi-hollow Telecaster with a ...Clinton Curtis embodies the true spirit of indie music. He rocks his semi-hollow Telecaster with a fervor that is sincerely apparent in every original tune he belts out. As a bonus, Curtis is also easy on the eyes. No doubt that a live show featuring this exciting young man makes for an awesome, memorable night.
Curtis’ up-tempo rockabilly flair is the perfect combo of loud, raunchy guitar work, rough, powerful lead vocals, busy background vocals, swimming drums and bluesy piano. The energetic title track and the lively “Crawfish Hole” make you feel like you’re at your favorite bar or dive.
The guitarist does have a sensitive side as his gruff voice melts away in “Raining Anyway.” This ballad follows the Keith Urban formula of “You’ll Think of Me” where the Aussie croons, “Take your cat and leave my sweater…” while the Jamaican native sings, “Keep your tea from China, your wild horses / They won’t ever make me stay…”
Following the country-folk tradition of clever musical storytelling, Curtis has quite a few such ditties like the underage love affair in “Mexican Scandal,” the wearied sailor and the prostitute in “Jump this Ship,” and the servant and the lady of the house in “Miss Aretha.” The standout however is “Revolution (Turn Sofia On)” and not just for the wild, unsavory nature of the characters but Curtis’ enjoyable, quirky vocal stylings. Sofia and her lover are doing drugs and running from the law as Curtis presents their tale with smooth falsetto jumps up and down throughout the tune laced with tasteful guitar work.
Smoldering Youth is a highly entertaining debut from Clinton Curtis who has the songwriting ability, the chops and the innate talent to be a long-time favorite performing musician.
Clinton Curtis- Smoldering Youth
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Clinton Curtis rocks! Except his music isn’t rock. It’s not indie either. The first track from New Y...Clinton Curtis rocks! Except his music isn’t rock. It’s not indie either. The first track from New York-based but Caribbean-raised Clinton Curtis’ album Smoldering Youth is pacey and gutsy right out of the box. But the sound is intriguing, it’s a big hark back to the heady days of skiffle mixed with a handful of southern state style ya’ll. It’s a real toe-tapper and could convert many people who don’t like the southern state genres.
So, comparisons. I’m not going to make any. It would be too easy to sit here with Clinton Curtis singing in my ears for the third time today, and reel off names like Jason Mraz with touches of vocal from Warren Zevon and an occasional flavouring of Donald Fagen.
Instead we need to just sit here and listen to this guy because he cuts his own path. His sense of rhythm, the way he treads a fine line of musical balance, the way his hand-crafted tracks ease themselves under your skin and live there for days on end. These are the distinctive hallmarks of a top quality singer/songwriter, and there just aren’t enough people of Clinton’s calibre around right now.
Oh. You want me to pick things out? Well, if I have to. One would be ‘The Mexican Scandal’, I love that story and I’d love to see it performed. ‘Bound to be Better’, there’s another; that track sums up so many days for all of us, but aside from the message, the way that track has been written and performed for us, we all need to get this guy on our Christmas Card lists right now! ‘Revolution (Turns Sofia On)’, that track had me actually strutting down the King’s Road in Chelsea, that’s the power of outstanding music my friend, outstanding music.
So as well as writing the melodies what else has Clinton Curtis done for you? Wrote the lyrics too? Played guitar? And Bass? And Keys? This is a redefining of the too-often used word ‘versatile’. Smoldering Youth gives the listener an album of carefully crafted talent produced with joy and delivered for fun.
Clinton Curtis and Smoldering Youth. Enjoy!
What’s not to like here? No... What’s not to love here? The first track might make those of us who don’t love southern state music a little uneasy but get over it! It’s excellent. The whole album is littered with gold. Raining Anyway – how can you not want to listen to that beautiful ballad over and over again?
Clinton Curtis’ musical roots are as diverse as his the places in this world he’s lived. He’s taken the best Caribbean influences, mixed them with his favourite R&B, added some influential soul a little skiffle and some country and western and served the whole dish up for you to adopt as part of the soundtrack of your life.
My spellchecker keeps trying to change the title from Smoldering to Smouldering. Perhaps next time we could choose a title that had the same spelling in English and American? And when the next title is ready for shipping you’d tell me? I’m asking because I’d buy it right now!
16th February 2009
Smoldering Youth Has Bright Future
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'Smoldering Youth' Has a Bright Future- 12/05/2008 Clinton Curtis has made a major career change...'Smoldering Youth' Has a Bright Future- 12/05/2008
Clinton Curtis has made a major career change. Having sung and played all over the Keys as a teenager, having gone to the Tisch School and from there to a road company of "Man of La Mancha," he now has his own music group, which released a CD of his compositions, "Smoldering Youth," a few weeks ago.
The style of Clinton's music would be hard to define. It is thoroughly eclectic, involving, as he puts it, "reggae, country, rock, jazz, folk, hip-hop, southern rock, hillbilly music, blue-eyed soul," all in 12 tracks. His vocalizing is a clear departure from what his fans here are used to. The big voice, appropriate for a theater stage, has been replaced by a more intimately expressive sound. As one might expect of him, it is all done with emotional honesty.
The band consists of Justin Levine on keyboards and mandolin, Arthur Sadowsky on bass and Kevin Joaquin Garcia on drums, all of them backing up Clinton, who, in addition to the vocals, plays 11 instruments. Musically, the group has a lot going for it: a hard country rhythmic drive, an in-the-pocket swing, and on the slower tunes, an appropriately sensitive accompaniment that sometimes gets a true blues feel.
The musicianship is always thoroughly professional and the arrangements are inventive, with none of the deadly repetitiveness that so often characterizes pop music today. My only reservation has to do with the mix, which is sometimes a little heavy on the instrumentation at the expense of the lyrics.
Those lyrics are interesting and often powerful. In a recent interview, Clinton said that his effort in writing was "cramming as much beauty, humor, sadness and excitement as possible into three minutes of pop music." The shadow of Bob Dylan is clearly behind many of his lyrics, and some are reminiscent of the mode of Dylan's lyric writing in which not only grammar and syntax by the literal meaning of the words are subordinated to a radical impressionism, the mode that resulted in "Crimson flames tied through my ears/Rollin' high and mighty traps." Thus, in the title song:
"Now they're folding up the cars and streets behind you
with your looks made of stone.
Don't you just love another dragonfly night when the carnival moans?"
But sometimes the allusive style tells the story:
"Her old man, he buys her habits,
but he don't make her smile
From the contents of her bedside table
He hasn't for a while."
And sometimes that and more:
"Last night you were a beauty
But today you're just a bag of bones
This town is two-thirds true believers
And one-third truly stoned."
In the title tune, there is a nice ambiguity to the word "smoldering." While it seems to suggest dying embers, it may also mean something like readiness to light up and shine. And after the recent election, it is nice to think that Clinton intends the latter meaning.
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To say that Clinton Curtis is a talented musician is an understatement. Growing up between the isla...To say that Clinton Curtis is a talented musician is an understatement. Growing up between the islands of Jamaica and Key West, Florida, he was heavily influenced by many top Jamaican reggae artists. he moved to NYC at 18 where he paved his way into the local village music scene. Today, Clinton continues to play in the city, perfect his songwriting, and has recorded a full-length LP.
Clinton's latest release, Smoldering Youth, was released in late 2008 on indie label, 27 Sound. Though some of his songs, such as "Revolution Turns Sofia On," fit into the reggae genre, others like "Smoldering youth," will have you slapping your knees and dancing. Whatever your preferred genre, Clinton's fresh pop vocals and fun performance are sure to impress. Come see for yourself!
Available to appear as a solo act (acoustic guitar/piano accompaniment) or with a backing group.
Two full-sets of original music. Every now and then, the odd cover- usually eclectic, obscure often from classic rock or vintage reggae repertoire.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.