When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, it proved to be a deeply challenging time for many around the globe. For musical artists, the ensuing lockdown became a fruitful time, creatively speaking. This was especially true for Brooklyn based singer/songwriter, J.M. Clifford, who wrote many songs while quarantined in his apartment. These compositions would ultimately serve as the basis for his debut project, On A Saturday Night.
This album touches on various themes, many of which Clifford has experienced personally, such as loss and acceptance. The opening track, Kick the Drum, is a reflection of the bluegrass community that he came to discover in Brooklyn, New York, while Damn Shame focuses on the aftermath of a failed relationship and coming to terms with the emotions that surround it.
The greatest strength of On A Saturday Night is the stylistic choices that were made. Slow Rollin’ Train is performed in the vein of a traditional bluegrass piece while other songs such as the title cut, On a Saturday Night and Reservoir are rendered as slow ballads. The project’s sole instrumental piece, Crooked Bars, and the final track, Georgia Stars, are performed in a wonderful old time string band fashion.
J.M. Clifford has what I would describe as a subtle, yet emotive quality to his singing. This particularly comes through on Dollar Store Roses and Trouble Comes Tumblin’ Down. Clifford strikes a delicate balance between inserting his own emotions into the performance while not stepping on the gas too much, vocally speaking.
On A Saturday Night is a wonderful debut project. While the material is autobiographical in nature, each of the songs is delivered in a compelling manner that any listener can connect to. J.M. Clifford is an adept new talent and I’m eager to see what he’ll bring to the table going forward.