Clay Nightingale
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Clay Nightingale


Band Americana Rock


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"Clay Nightingale – The River and Then the Restless Wind (Furman House)"

By: Doug Freeman

Clay Nightingale is the project of San Marcos’ Daniel Shaetz – thankfully, because that would be a tough name for a kid to grow up with. But then Shaetz seems to take things in stride, especially on the group’s debut full-length. There is a strong sense of Wilco’s Being There days overlaying a playful lyricism, but, like Wilco, the easiness is hinged upon poignant moments arising from the heart of the songs. The album also encompasses a twenty-something aesthetic of living in central Texas, making the round of bars, humid hipster parties, tenuous relationships, and, of course, music played with a laid back informality of mellow late nights and drunken hoe-downs.

Those elements also give the nine songs on The River a bi-polar, if logical, balance. Between the hilarious “The Bar is a Wonderful Place” and sentimental “Missing Missing” lies a subtle reality that is relatable and remarkably articulated. The conversational mischievousness of the former (“The bar is wonderful place, it puts hope in my veins and blows smoke in my face, and the worst songs they have in the juke box are great, just wait till you hear the great songs that I played”) is cast over a swaying, drink-along beat and slide guitar, while the latter, perhaps the album’s most exceptional song, displays the resignation of missed connections and possibility left to nostalgia (“But this is not a movie, this is not what we’re like, you can’t just roll the credits after we have a good time. I’m sure I’ll forget umbrellas as soon as it’s supposed to rain; you weren’t put here to hang around, and I’m sure not here to entertain, and that should be enough reason, that should be ok”). The entire song is beautifully built, moving lyrics doled with an understated boredom that realizes the situation for what it is, as Tyler Mabry’s piano and Mathew Harber’s pedal steel reinforce the early Wilco feel, a sound perhaps best replicated in “Patio,” echoing “Misunderstood” without being derivative.

The key to Shaetz’s songwriting depths, though, is that these emotions are never thrown towards the maudlin or exaggerated, but rather given as life’s simple twists. And lyrically, Shaetz can hint at deeper intentions without having to unduly fixate on them, as on the excellent closing line of “Patio”: “You’ve gotta get out of here soon - you’re a good ice skater, but you’re a real bad swimmer.” Levity is also shot through the center of the album with “A Song For You For Me,” an a cappella hand-clappin’, foot stompin’ romp that sets a seamless trilogy alongside “3I,” which rolls in the spirit of Shearwater’s “Happy Song for My Friends,” and the easy flow of “New Pair of Shoes.”

The album may be best understood in terms of its bookends, however - opener “Eureka” and closer “Blast Off.” In an underwhelmed monotone, Schaetz begins “Eureka, I found a nickel in my carpet, and with the fifty in my wallet, this could mean good times,” while “Blast Off” playfully rips lyrics from “Reason to Believe,” “Levon,” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” contorting them into Schaetz’s own narrative. It’s a fitting patchwork for an album that feels like an evening drive down Austin’s streets with the window rolled down, careless, joyful, and touched with the sentimentality of experiences even as they unfold. - Austin Sound -The Independent Music Source for Austin

"Review: Clay Nightingale- (Self Titled)"

Hailing from San Marcos, Texas, are unsigned artists Clay Nightingale. As far as background goes, there is really not too much more I can tell you. The groups myspace page reveals each of the band-members names, but their respective roles, or any true insight into the groups history are not to be found. What is to be found however, are two records; 2008's 'The River and Then the Restless Wind', and 2009's self titled outing.

In regards to the more recent record in question, all feelings of estrangement end after one spin of the disc. In fact, you will most likely feel as if you just spent a week together with these guys. The lyrics to be found here are among the best of the year; immediately accessible and relatable, and yet offering up a fresh sentiment that I only now realize is notably absent from most of pop culture. Though on the surface much of the subject matter seems to relate to nothing more than hanging out and drinking beers, there is hardly a feeling of contentment behind these actions. Rather, we are painted a picture of the late twenties, single male, leading a comfortable yet unfulfilling American life. This record is a testament to that quest, that yearning for fulfillment. The charm of the record, is that it does not try to recreate this yearning in epic Arcade Fire-esque sweeps of theatricality. It does so through simple retellings about afternoons with friends and small happenings in town, painted with subtle Americana brushstrokes in a way that none but Clay Nightingale have quite captured.

The record opens with "Eric McMullen", a classic example of how the wordplay here is open to endless analyzation, without the pitfalls of simply being cryptic. When they drop their own band name in the last lyric of the track (referring to hanging an actual clay nightingale on a Christmas tree for a girl), one could go on for hours trying to decipher what exactly this is signifying: is their music naught but superficial adornment? a testament to stifled and confused love? or was he really just telling a straight story? Whatever the answer is, the poetry remains wholly satisfying. The brilliant "Last Paycheck" follows; arguably an anthem for some lost generation. After anecdotes about spending time at the movies or laying out on trampolines, the singer wonders "if the key to this whole mess, is really in the engine of an old parked car". As the tinkling piano, offset rhythmically by guitar couplets, drops down into resolution, he emphatically states "Man if I don't quit my job, I think I'm gonna lose my mind/I'll grab my last paycheck, Maybe it'll be enough to fill the tank in our new ride/Drive it until sunrise". The discontentment of this record is consistently offset by similar joys however. Joy born most easily by spending time (and usually drinking) with people they love. On "How We Outdrink The Silver Pines" this is most evident; the Silver Pines being friends in another band. The marriage of these two consistent offsetting sentiments, a loathing of the everyday lonely American life verse the joy of being with people you love, often yields the obvious solution of "let's run away together" (as it does in some form or another on "Eric McMullen", "Last Paycheck", "Look Out Driver", "Move To The Woods", etc.). However, by the closer, "Losin It", it has become apparent that this will never happen. It is now when you realize what the familiar sentiment characterizing the music this whole time has been: resignation.

(Sidenote: It is also worth noting that the singers deadpan delivery makes for some great moments of comic levity here as well, which is only appropriate. On one hand you have the badminton based subplot of "1314 San Antonio St.", and on another you have the hilarious line, "Life handed us tomato juice/So we made micheladas for everyone".)

Musically, the tracks accompanying the poetry here are consistently well performed and produced. Often minimalist in scope, but never unwilling to lay a little pedal steel into the mix, very rarely is the band allowed to exercise the dynamic creativity they obviously have. We see flashes of this on the subtle bombast of the outro on "How We Outdrink The Silver Pines", and the staccato violin stabs of "Losin It". Mostly however, the Texas outfit sticks to the formula of pitting stripped down mid-tempo Americana as sepia toned backdrops to the tales playing out within them. The constant balladry does get a little tiresome, particularly on "Bring An Autoharp" ("1314 San Antonio St." is probably the closest thing to a pop song here), but for the most part the instrumentals resonate aptly.

The record closes with the singer asking, "And how are we not freakin' out? How are we not losin' it?". The fact is however that he has already provided the answer. Clay Nightingale may be coming to those hard realizations that their is no perfect romance, no end to a quest for identity, and no higher meaning to be sought in an average life. And as small and lonely and desperate as that makes us all feel, they have certainly come to terms with it more sensibly than most: with good drink, good friends, and most of all, damn good music.

Rating: 8.5/10
Best Tracks: "Last Paycheck", "How We Outdrink The Silver Pines", "Losin It" - Tongue Tied Lightning


Clay Nightingale -The River and Then the Restless Wind (Dec 2006 LP)

Clay Nightingale -S/T (Aug 2009 LP)



We all met in San Marcos, TX either in the Texas State University art department or at local bars and music venues. We have experienced slight lineup changes during our 3 year existence, yet have maintained great friendships and musical bonds. We are influenced by most classic and modern popular music. Some of our favorites are Roy Orbison, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. Our music usually involves a variety of instrumentation and thrives on melody and lyrics. What sets us apart? We were told one time by another band that we were good at using silence in our songs. We take that to mean that we are thoughtful in the way that we arrange our instrumentation. We enjoy making music together and would love to share our songs with a larger audience.