Singer- songwriter Clerel Djamen, simply known as Clerel nurtured his taste for melody in his native Cameroon, where he grew up listening to music ranging from church hymns to French chanson. He moved to the United States in 2008 to a chemistry degree in Ohio, where he picked up the guitar for the very first time, and began exploring his vocal and performance talents. Later a University trip to Memphis’ famed Stax-Volt museum would introduce Clerel to the genre of soul music. After completing his degree in 2013, Clerel relocated to Montreal, Canada, where he began performing at local open mics to enthusiastic acclaim. This eventually led to the recording of his debut EP, “Songs From Under A Guava Tree”, recorded and co-produced with Kento Kataoka, from which the single “Blackstone” is taken.
What gives the single “Blackstone” its momentum, is Clerel’s easy-going vocal prowess, which frequently succeeds in brushing away any artificiality in order to strike a more natural pose. With a voice that glides somewhere between Jon Legend and Bill Withers, he brings a sense of classic soul to much of his material, and there are countless hints scattered throughout the EP that perhaps he will soon rival his idols’ greatest works.
Clerel is an elegant singer who is steadily finding a way to be relevant while also forcing the R&B and Soul world to shed its well-entrenched, formulaic approach to crafting music. The lyrics on “Blackstone” are personal and introspective: “But what about the way you held my hand? / The way our fingers seemed to lock so perfectly / The way I felt at ease in your silence / Don’t tell me all the dreamy nights were just a dream.”
The overall atmosphere is smooth, reflective, but intense and emotional, without resorting to cheap sentiments: “Well time will help us cauterize the open wounds / Sometimes its walking through the fire that lands you the moon / And I’ve no desire to carry on by my lonesome / I’m just a black stone on the roll when all is said and done / That’s the way it goes.”
It’s clear that Clerel is dealing with a lot in this song, and it’s clear he knows how to translate life’s afflicting turns into some of life’s more compelling music. The interplay between Clerel’s voice silky smooth and his jangly guitar is a combination made in heaven.
It’s a chemistry that in the music industry these days is getting rarer by each subsequent technological update. Fortunately, Clerel has much more raw talent to work with than most current R&B and Soul artists; he’s in possession of a hot-buttered croon capable of doling out joyous euphoria and romantic affliction with equal ease.
I’m almost sure that Clerel’s voice has yet to meet a groove that it can’t bend to the singer’s wishes. Shot through with a blended dose of Stax realness and a melodic Motown bounce, co-producer and engineer, Kento Kataoka, provides a firm support wall for Clerel to rail against. In ways you were not expecting and that couldn’t be anticipated in the current bombastic music scene, Clerel serves up an elegant, pliable and mellifluous dose of dreamy soul.