clayprewittThere are a lot of things I like about local songwriter Clay Prewitt.

He’s a handsome young man with a gorgeous girlfriend and a promising career as a wordsmith for Tombras Advertising and he knows a thing or two about writing a catchy tune too.

What I like most about this local musician though is his calm and determined humility. Like most dedicated players he shrugs off his talent and seems genuinely thankful for any audience to listen to his music.

This past Friday, I enjoyed a night out with a local band that has cultured into a respectable gem on the local music scene and there’s a good chance you’ll have a chance to enjoy their music too this year as they break out with a great cast of players and memorable music.

My first experience with Prewitt’s band was on the shores of Boone Lake at The Marker 2 Grill. For the past two summers, the Sundowners were almost the house band at this popular dockside bar playing acoustic covers and rambling original songs way into the night.

Their performances were like a backyard pickin’ porch. You never knew who might show up including harmonica/vocalist Carson Waugh, Songwriter Allun Cormier and several players who still follow him around today. One thing was certain though – everyone in this band is always primed for a good time.

Clay’s music has gained momentum lately with successful performances at Bristol Rhythm Roots and several local venues. He’s attracted some impressive players who have joined the act and together, they are fermenting a local taste that’s acoustic, funky and sprinkled with a touch of hillbilly bohemia – if there is such a thing.

Clay offers no hesitation when asked about his musical influences and John Prine is at the top of his list. His Facebook account even has a picture of him and his girl Megan in front of a theatre marquee with Prine’s name in lights in the background (Prine performs this week at the Tennessee to a sold-out show).

Like Prine, Prewitt is an organic songwriter who pens stories about loss and love and sprinkles the music with a down-home flavor that is a fresh breath on the local music scene. The music is groovy, intimate and intelligent. He moves from toe-tapping mashups to a rich vocabulary like the new original ‘Love on The Road.’

I fell in love with a girl in Cincinnati
Uncommon longing for that golden touch
I promised laughter and a walk atop the ocean
but for that northern girl it didn’t matter much
and for that long-distanced chagrin – I’ll never go back again to

I fell in love with a girl up in Virginia
She walked her own path wished upon a sky of stars
I let her fly to the other side of the Ole Dominion
At 65 in her Daddy’s foreign car
and I think of how long it’s been and – I’ll never go back to Virginia

Click here to listen to Love on The Road and other tunes from Clay

Last Friday, the Clay and the Sundowners played to a warm crowd on Friday the 13th at Capone’s in Johnson City.

Capone’s (formerly Gatsby’s) has a great stage and under the lights and sound of Soundprano Alan Prince, the band sounded completely refined. After watching this act grow for three years, the Sundowner’s are a striking band of musical gypsies who should blaze a new path in the region with rich harmonies, extraordinary songwriting and youthful faces that share share a distinct brand of funk folk fusion all their own.

Described as a vagabond maestro, Allun Cormier is an outstanding songwriter with his own set of tunes that compliments the band. Together with Prewitt, they share a rich set list of original songs which includes one of my favorites called “Radio” which has unexpected melodies and moving harmonies that contribute another dash of sophistication to the Sundowners.

There’s more to this band than great songwriters though.

Blake Collins was dressed in his grandfather’s tweed jacket. This young man has a poker face and takes a great picture from every angle, but more intriguing about this musician is the elegant melodies he threads into the music on mandolin.

He told me, “I’m out of my element with this group, after growing up playing traditional bluegrass.” That may be so, but he fits in surprisingly well into this quintet and is backed up by a solid rhythm section include Dr. Steve Marshall on bass and Steve Reese on drums – who’s been following Clay around since the Boone Lake beginnings.

Along with a terrific set list of fresh original music, the band has a lot of fun with memorable covers – everything from a acoustic funk rendition of AC/DC and a kooky rendition of Talking Head’s classic – “Psycho Killer.”

It should be a great year for Clay Prewitt and The Sundowners. The band has a stacked deck of great players with a fresh new attitude based on intelligent, fun folk music. They’re scheduled to play several festivals and you’ll probably catch them back on the lake sometime during the summer too.

The music is refreshing, memorable and there humble beginnings and their confident ambition should continue to create new fans and a new library of music that will echo through the mountains for several years.