Stephen Clair | The Small Hours
(Rock City Records)
Stephen Clair has done it. He's made the record he's been threatening to make all along. The Small Hours is rock 'n' roll, pure and simple. Hooks, guitars, bass, and drums. Did we mention hooks? Whether it's the slinky opening riff of "Come Down," the smoky vocal curlicues of "Dorothy," or the windblown New Orleans narrative of "Hurricane Coming," Small Hours offers so many reasons to return. A peripatetic Beaconite, Clair has always gathered stories close, spinning them with an author's eye and, with deference to Lou Reed, a rock 'n' roll heart. But this disc is leaner in all the right ways than past efforts, anchored solely but soulfully by four stringer Daria Grace and skinsman Aaron Latos—you hear the songs, not the production. With such simple backing, Clair's talents—deadpan delivery, keen wordsmithing, and deceptively intricate fretwork—come to the fore, shining through the small hours. Recommended.