David Clayton-Thomas Has the Urge to 'Say Somethin''

Photo: Courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

David Clayton-Thomas' Say Somethin' probably won't sell 10 million copies like the eponymous Blood, Sweat & Tears album did, but it's a rich and valuable record in its own right.

Say Somethin'

Linus Records

20 March 2020

David Clayton-Thomas was once a big star as the lead singer with a distinctively strong voice of Blood, Sweat & Tears during the band's heyday 50 years ago. That's him belting out "What goes up / must come down" on their big hit "Spinning Wheel", a song he wrote. Since then, his career has had its fill of ups and downs. The man who once packed large arenas and sold-out shows, including Woodstock 1969, has since played at rural county fairs and small town 4th of July celebrations for free. That's nothing to be ashamed of. What's popular is no indication of talent. It is the rare act that can stay on top for decades. His willingness to keep on performing reveals his troubadour spirit. He still has something to say, as he puts it on his latest solo release, Say Somethin'.

Clayton-Thomas has a big, burly voice (the closest modern equivalent would be Rag 'n' Bone Man). He began as a blues singer, and that influence on his music is still abundantly clear, which maybe is another way of saying he sings with feeling. Even with he's addressing topical concerns such as gun violence, climate change, immigration, and American politics (he is a Canadian), his intellectual musings are couched with strong emotions.

Although Clayton-Thomas is in his late 70s, he still remembers his roots. On the autobiographical "Bushwah", he tells the tale of being in jail as a young man and discovering his musical talents. The song builds to a climax as we learn of this moment's pivotal importance in his life. He then launches into an informed critique of the modern judicial system from his view as a formerly incarcerated citizen on "The System". Clayton-Thomas takes things personally and trusts his instincts to understand what is right and what is wrong—and there is much he sees in need of improvement. Or as he puts in the titles of other tracks on the album, we are on "The Precipice" and living in a "The Circus"—with President Trump as ringmaster.

Clayton-Thomas expresses his admiration for the previous president on the gospel dirge "Dear Mr. Obama", but tempers his praise with an understanding of the problems of poverty and such that plague the nation. Clayton-Thomas also tells the story of another leader, "King Midas", the moral of which is "the best things in life a free". What good is a golden wife and golden friends who can't talk or feel? That may be an allegory for Donald Trump but also works as a story on its own merits.

Clayton-Thomas doesn't mince words on "Never Again" as he addresses gun violence in the schools and the power of the National Rifle Association. "Weapons that were made for war / don't belong in my hometown," he defiantly croons, "enough is enough". His view of America as "A Bright and Shining City" has been dimmed by its current policies, he sings on a cut with that title.

The songs are bolstered by a strong group of players, including Lou Pomanti on keyboards, Eric St. Laurent on guitars, Marc Rogers on bass, and Davide Di Renzo on drums. They match his tone and intonations when he sings loudly, but more importantly, understand when to lay back when Clayton-Thomas lowers the volume to express his thoughts passionately.

Say Somethin' probably won't sell 10 million copies as the eponymous Blood, Sweat & Tears album did, but it's a rich and valuable record in its own right. Times have changed, but happily, Clayton-Thomas is still making music worth hearing.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.