With a Ray Davies-like vocal delivery, mountains of songwriting credits, Clair's gritty and provocative songs are kicked into high gear with the muscular and stirring chops of the mighty Pushbacks.
"A fearless performer" —San Antonio Express
“Clair is laid-back - yet very New York, proving that's possible.”—Village Voice
“Stephen Clair and the Pushbacks have literary, story-telling songs like Chuck Prophet, with a range of feeling from Steve Forbert to Alejandro Escovedo.”—Nan Warshaw, Bloodshot Records
Stephen Clair and The Pushbacks opens with “My Crime,” a slow, lingering dare to the trope that albums need to kick in quickly—“We passed rye whiskey around in the van,” Clair intones, “it felt good to drive, but hell if I could stand. That’s the kind of love we make these days, driving these streets in a purple haze.” “Take It Downtown” snarls and laughs, with a spray of first verse rhymes over an insistent snare. And the soul-strutting “I Go Alone” is a balladeer’s paean to solitude, with baritone sax bolstering Clair’s best vocal ever.
Stephen Clair and The Pushbacks is a record for adults, made by adults.
Clair has spent his lifetime telling stories. With the Pushbacks, the Beacon N.Y. singer has found a band ready to tell those stories now, in today’s voice. Stephen Clair and The Pushbacks sparkles with rich, restrained guitar work. It has a deep pop sensibility, leavened with a writer’s eye for detail; and the horns, keys and harmonies add a keen thumbprint to Clair’s singular songs. The industry-savvy concert favorite “Kill Me,” for example, is not an order, or a request. It’s an admission; and the hook will stay in your ear for days.
In 2003, Clair—“a fearless performer” according to the San Antonio Express—became the darling of WFUV, with the relentless anthem “Jen in Her Underwear” becoming a summer hit, championed by the influential Rita Houston, and compared, vocally, to Lou Reed and James McMurtry. Clair, of course, had spent time in New York and Austin, so the blend made sense, but the song had a winking leer all its own.
In the mid-2000s, Clair made good on the Texas connection, and spent considerable time on tour with Robert Earl Keen. The star’s band took notice, backing Clair on the remarkable long-player What Luck, with producer/guitarist Rich Brotherton stating, “He's an incredible singer-songwriter.”
Live, the Pushbacks assay Clair’s considerable catalog with a focus on the new record, his sixth. It’s a unit both supple and strong, with most members also on the faculty at Clair’s award-winning school, Beacon Music Factory.
Stephen Clair and The Pushbacks is a carom from the days when radio could save your life and a song was all you needed.
Stephen Clair writes those songs.
“For fans of literate singer/songwriters who balance the weight of the world with a bit of humor, Clair ... should fit the bill.”—All Music Guide