Atlanta’s Clay Harper is a man of many talents – not just a prolific song writer, he’s also a businessman, real estate magnate, story teller, and conceptual artist. He’s seen high highs and extreme lows, in the form of recovery from drug addiction, and his wife’s suffering and premature death from cancer. All this gives him motivation and fuel for his music.
His new song, ‘Dirt Yard Street’, the title track from his forthcoming album, set for release on October 2, is a laid back, gravelly voiced track, there’s sadness, there’s angst. The repeated refrain, “I believe in my soul” is devastatingly tragic. Clay’s voice is set against a simple acoustic guitar instrumental, which adds to the sombreness. Yet, within all this tragedy, there’s a certain resignation, and perhaps a seeking for contentment in that. Harper surveys his surroundings, the truck drivers, the dirt yard street. He finishes with “I believe this is home” and he decides that it is good.
All this is a world away from his beginnings, back in the 80s, when he started a band called The Coolies – named for the not very nice term meaning, “one who does heavy work for little pay”. Their first album, ‘Dig’, released when signed to DB Records, was an album of punk rock covers of Simon And Garfunkel songs. Its follow-up, ‘Doug’, has been declared one of the top 14 “Rock Operas Of All Time”.
Post The Coolies, Clay’s band Ottoman Empire saw the start of his ongoing friendship and collaboration with the legendary Wreckless Eric, he of Stiff Records, with whom Clay wrote and recorded ‘East Of Easter’, in the mid 90s. In 1996, Clay created with Kosmo Vinyl, of The Clash, on a 7″ “45 of the Month Club” – at the very cusp of the rise of the CD as the go-to portable music method.
Still further away, Clay released two children’s albums with his brother Mark, as well as a cast of thousands, including but not limited to Moe Tucker, Ian Dury, Cindy Wilson, Susan Cowsill, Bobby Byrd, The Reverend Horton Heat, and Colonel Bruce Hampton. Phew.
All this makes that final line all the more poignant. Clay Harper is on Dirt Yard Street…and he believes that this is home.
Listen to ‘Dirt Yard Street’ below and see what you think. The album of the same name is out on October 2.