Bar Exam: Christon Gray – Clear The Heir (Album)
A One Listen Album Review
The supremely talented artist, Christon Gray just recently dropped his follow up to “Glory” last week. We’ve seen him move from a man with huge potential it his early projects “Even With Evil With Me,” and “Body Art” to seeing that potential fully blossom into something quite powerful in his projects “School Of Roses” and “Glory.” His most significant contribution to culture lately has been his song “Stop Me,” which has seen radio play and spots on ESPN as well as a trailer for the new Rampage movie. The early singles I’ve heard from this new project, “Clear The Heir” have been deep and refined. I’m excited to sit and simmer with some new Christon Gray today. Time for a bar exam.
Clear The Heir – Press play and there’s an orchestra playing. It’s moving and melodic underneath a man speaking. “You can’t let adversity and hardship affect your integrity.” Before you know, there’s a beat smacking underneath this same string sample.
“Let me tell you bout the aftermath/Went from being married to a bachelor pad/One day at a time, will you pray for me?/Gotta learn to live with regrets, that’s what Jay told me”
This first track seems to be a true set up to the entire project. Intriguing to say the least.
You & I (Samson’s Lament) – A haunting piano line brings us into track two. “How do these thoughts make their home in my head?” There’s a lot going on here at the top of this track. Seems like he’s dealing with some inner demons, and the production on his voice as well as the trippyness of the instrumental/beat that fades in depict it well. Christon is dealing with sexual addiction, and hitting it head on. The layers of everything going on in the music as well as the production of the vocals create an incredible unsettling tension. That tension stays in the music even as he wraps the song up with a chat to his daughter.
Time Out – The instrumental here is big. A lot of horns and brass, the bass is pumping. He’s got a fast paced flow laced with some pauses throughout. The song is talking about how he’s at a point in his life where he can’t give up, he’s pressing on. For verse three, there’s a big drumline feel to it. This track is elevated in huge ways and it feels great.
“I came here to win, whatchu mad about/Get up out my lane, you don’t have the clout/Nothing you can do that’ll stop me now/The game is on the line and there’s no time outs/”
Grow Up – The music here is intricate again. There’s a piano line laid over some beat box samples, with a muted trumpet introducing a melody. With no introductions or pontification, we jump straight into a flow. It feels like 90’s Q-Tip and the hook here even leans more that way with the bass line digging in. The entire soundscape here is hopeful and upbeat, but on the other hand he’s dealing with being immature and fake in some instances. This is the best song so far.
Ride The Wave – So far we’ve heard a lot of piano instrumentals, and “Ride The Wave” is no different. This one sounds a little hotel lobby-ish, and there sounds like ocean waves moving in the background as well. This one seems to be a straight up R&B track, detailing how he’s now found his forever lady who accepts him, “flaws and all.”
Together Forever – Once more it’s a piano based instrumental. Everything is chilled and laid back, from the flows to the introspective Chorus. He’s reminiscing about life, he’s thinking through what he’s built in the past with some hope towards the future. We close out this tune with a snippet from Sway in The Morning where he’s talking about his thoughts on divorce.
Seekrets – This section from the interlude to the actual track all feels like an interlude. There’s a change in perspective here in the lyrics. We move from “I still remember our love songs” to “I can’t stop singing our love songs” to “whatever happened to love songs.” This song details the inner fight and the complication of relationships. This is pretty great, it’s very hook-heavy but the music beds and the depth of meaning in the lyrics are worth it.
Take Me To The Water – This song involved B-Reith and Chris trading verses over an easy instrumental. There’s a shaker and some soloing clean guitars. There’s some momentum here though, weaving in feelings of hope and ending with prayer and the sound of Christon’s daughter. Once more there’s ocean sounds.
Gray – Taelor Gray and Tragic Hero link up with Chris on this one. The beat comes in and Chris lights it up immediately.
“Harmless as a dove, right?/So am I really soft if I’m the respond in love type?/Please forgive me if I think that/It takes a brave man to bring a pen to a gunfight/Now I’m a middle child with a middle class view/Thought I understood the world at a little past two/Always clash with the culture, feeling anti – social/All this trash from the vulture’s, so I’m at your disposal”
This one’s got some vibes all the way. The bass rattles well, the hand-off between each artist and the Choruses works especially when you consider the different levels they’re each bringing. This one has some great direction to it, I love how each artist comes at the same beat in a different way.
By The Way – We close out the project with one more piano driven instrumental. Vocal layers stacked over Andy Hull (from Manchester Orchestra)’s opening poem. The singing here is off the chain. This tune is a little sleepy though.
Man, there’s so much imagery and meaningful creativity on this project. It’s probably deeper than I can understand at this first pass. Christon really has dealt with a lot lately and this album seemed to serve as some therapy. Even if it wasn’t about the therapeutic ingredients here, he laid out a lot of his failures and doubts for people to witness and feel. While I typically begin listening with optimistic ears to every project I take in, I usually can get in tune with where the momentum of the album takes me. This album seemed like it kept trying to kick start in spots but it ended up misfiring and dying off. There are a few tracks here that I will return to, but as far as the overall sound and feel, “Clear the Heir” is very repetitive, and leaves more to be desired. Christon is a one in a million talent, and I’ll forever be a fan of his. It’s possible that I may look back on this one and renege on my decision, but for now I’ll say this one is Below The Bar.