The Claytones: Bringing a fresh, classic sound to roots music

Aug 29, 2014

The Claytones are ones to watch on the Canadian roots/country music scene. 

Founded in 1824 as a tiny rural hamlet, historic Clayton, Ontario sits quietly in Lanark County, 30 minutes from Ottawa. With a population nestling just under 14,000, it is a community with deep generational roots, attractive to former city dwellers looking for a slower life in the country, and local artists enjoying a peaceful, inspirational place to work and live. It also bustles with musical energy and is home to roots/country act The Claytones.

The genesis of the band goes back to 2009 when vocalist/guitarist Anders Drerup was cast in the lead role of Gram Parsons in the theatrical production “Grievous Angel the Legend of Gram Parsons,”alongside vocalist/guitarist Kelly Prescott in the supporting role of Emmylou Harris. The undeniable chemistry that the two created led to the forming of The Claytones.

The band consists of four musicians all well known in the Ottawa Valley. Prescott hails from two musically renowned family lines. Her mother, Tracey Brown, is a Juno Award nominee, an inductee in the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame as a member of the Family Brown. Her father, Randall Prescott, is a Juno Award winner, and one of Canada’s most awarded producers. Drerup has played in many bands and in many different styles, making him much sought-after for recording and live performances. Bassist Adam Puddington is one of Almonte, Ontario’s golden sons, and has been a part of the musical community for many years. In 2013, the band added vocalist/mandolinist Pat McLaughlin to the band to fill out their sound. Bringing all this diverse history together, the band coalesced musically. “Even though we come from varied backgrounds and have listened to everything from Celtic to jazz to blues,” says Prescott. “It was old-time country music and rock that initially brought us together.”

The Claytones performing “Won’t Let Go” live at Lakeside. 

With an impressive list of accolades in their back pocket that includes winning the Ottawa Blues Challenge in 2012, The Claytones released their debut album, Lake in the Night, in July 2012. Considering the band’s rich experiences and the fact that they are all seasoned musicians, the musical strength of the album came as no surprise. It was a true collaborative project, impressively driven by the band’s vocals, writing and arranging, making their sound the sum of its parts. Anders shines on the Louvin Brothers’ “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” and the original tune, “Remembrance Day,” while Prescott’s emotive vocals are a highlight of “Out On the Road Tonight,” and “When the Sun Goes Down.” From start to finish, each song was beautifully supported by effective yet subtle musical accompaniment.

“If I Had a Boat” by The Claytones. 

Receiving positive reviews and praise for their energetic and charismatic stage presence, The National Post listed The Claytones as one of the Top 5 Canadian Acts to Watch in 2012, and the band received the 2013 Galaxie Rising Star Award at the Ottawa Folk Festival. The band headed back into the studio in the fall of 2013 to create their follow-up, Reserva. Recorded live off the floor over four nights in Clayton, their sophmore showcases the band’s refined writing and arrangements and a musical maturation from the first album. Lush harmonies come through exquisitely on tunes such as Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You,” and Puddington’s “Draw the Drapes,” and once again the melodies seem to spin effortlessly. That old-school sensibility and a tip of the hat to the past are also clear. In a flash, The Claytones can go from sounding like The Carter Family to modern day pop-country. “For sure we’ve been influenced by others, but I think we’ve taken what we’ve learned and tried to make ourselves sound unique,” says Prescott. Another feature of the new album is the understated power lying within each song. You are immediately struck by that seamless blend of voices and the earthy quality within their distinctive Canadiana sound.

The Claytones performing an unplugged version of “Bottle of Wine” on a pontoon boat.

The popularity of country music in Canada has seen peaks and valleys. Roots music seems to be taking its cue from country music, helping to revive the genre. The Claytones, in their short career, have certainly covered a lot of ground. Whether it’s through their originals or their interpreted songs, they remain undeniably both fresh and classic. They are making their mark and helping to strengthen the country/roots genre, while at the same time, filling a void with stories and songs that come from the heart and heal the soul.

–Marvin Matthews

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