K.C. Clifford returns after eight years and birthing two children to release her self-titled seventh album in 20 years. Clifford learned so much from her musician father's extensive record collection that she draws from a deep well of The Supremes, The Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and others. Faint echoes from that era bleed through on her songs here, the first time she's released an album entirely around piano. Clifford is a lifelong vocalist from Oklahoma City with just a hint of twang and plenty of power, who is a three-time Woody Guthrie Award -winner.
Most of these songs were co-written with Daniel Walker, the keyboardist, who absolutely shines throughout. He has support from two guitarists, bassist, percussionist, a string arrangement for one selection and a three-person gospel choir, that together with Walker's piano and church-like organ, give a heavy gospel feel on several songs. The lyrics are also spiritual and deeply reflective, marking a point in Clifford's life where family, motherhood, and the turbulent outside world have converged for her to deliver a powerful message of compassion. We need to put aside our differences and accept people for you they are. That's the prevailing message in the first single, "Salt."
Another theme is letting go of things that no longer serve her ("Ophelia" and "No More Living Small"). She is so intent about this messaging that it appears prominently below the song sequence on the outside jacket - "You are loved. Your life matters. You are worthy of kindness from others and to yourself. You deserve to be seen, heard, and valued."
Some of the songwriting and sound on this album is as if she's a female version of those early Elton John piano albums, especially, "One Good Reason," "You Couldn't Stay" and "Worth the Wait" where the primary accompaniment is piano and more subtle organ. The opposite is the gospel fueled rave-ups like "Rise Up" and the opener "Music In Our Souls." In every case, Clifford holds nothing back as her vocals soar and penetrate too. She finds more than one way to stir your soul.