Living Blues Magazine Review of Boogie Woogie Man Feb, 2012 issue

Living Blues Magazine - Review Big Clayton's Watson Boogie Woogie Man CDBig Clayton

Boogie Woogie Man

With over 20 years of experience, self-taught pianist Clayton Watson debuts with an impressive collection of boogie-woogie, stride, and early rock ‘n’ roll piano, showcasing the instrument’s foundational role in early popular music, as well as Big Clayton’s command of hip-shaking boogie and mesmerizing improvisation. Boogie Woogie Man is almost entirely instrumental, and the simplicity of a solitary piano on every track emphasizes Clayton’s skill.

Big C Boogie is probably the most purely boogie-woogie track, alluding to innovators like Albert Ammons and even Pinetop Smith. He gets right to the heart of the sound—an infectious groove with exuberant melodies and fills in the treble. No Dimes goes to Chicago, and Clayton sings a little. But it is his command of the piano style that is his strength.

It appears Clayton is deliberately teaching listeners about piano boogie: many of his titles are clear about what he’s attempting. On Striding Along he offers a mid-tempo stride number that suggests innovators like James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith, without getting lost in the expressiveness of the approach.

Amazing Grace, Big Style, and Stepping Out keep a boogie flavor while toying with a West Coast attitude. The former is especially jazzy and improvisational, kicking the album off with nearly ten minutes of dynamic, elegant sound.

Clayton’s forays into early rock ‘n’ roll will educate anybody who wonders exactly how the genre made folks get up and shake things. Old School Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tickling the Ivories each flaunt a boogie-woogie bass line that magnifies exciting piano riffs that tickle and repeat.

The album strolls away on Walking the Landing, inspired by Clayton’s time as a regular on the Branson Landing. The track has a laidback tempo and a New Orleans feel. The melody trickles and leaps all around the beat staying loose and comfortable. It’s a friendly way to say good-bye—fitting after such a devoted and frank articulation of boogie-woogie’s early avatars.

If you’re looking for fresh yet timeless piano CD, definitely check out Boogie Woogie Man

--Katie Lambert

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