The C&G Spot: Caviar & Grits’ Soulful New EP is Stunning

There’s a rather beautiful juxtaposition between the hectic, nonstop week I’ve had, and now sitting down to review The C&G Spot, the upcoming release from Caviar & Grits. This new five-track EP is as stunning as it is soulful. An album as true a representation of life as any scrapbook someone might assemble of what mine has been like recently: hectic but happy, busy yet beautiful.

My family has a lot going on right now. House-hunting in Binghamton is already difficult, before trying it from 200 miles away. Parlor City Sound has sort of erupted in activity recently too, which we’re blessed for and humbled by, but it’s been a lot to keep up with. And then there’s that day-to-day structured chaos that begins with getting my daughter to preschool—brushing curly hair, finding miniature Alfa Romeos in your sneakers, etc.—and only increases in tempo from there.

But now I’m sitting down for The C&G Spot. And this is a collection of songs that each compel you to take a breather from life’s daily crescendos. To sit back and enjoy deep grooves and exemplary, colorful texturing. It’s music that helps you put everything into context, and appreciate that none of those aforementioned stressors are gathering clouds, but the parting of them.

The C&G Spot comes out on May 3rd (you can pre-save it here), but Caviar & Grits reached out to offer me the chance to review it early. And I’m incredibly grateful—2024 is a year of hotly-anticipated releases for the Binghamton music scene, and this has been on the shortlist of those I’ve been looking forward to the most.

The C&G Spot is set for release on May 3rd 2024. Displayed in this photo are Tyson Alston, Joe Kollar, Michaela Clark, Moses Valle, and Jim Lomonaco of Caviar & Grits.
Tyson Alston, Joe Kollar, Michaela Clark, Moses Valle, and Jim Lomonaco of the band Caviar & Grits

You’re the Best

Caviar & Grits has a signature sound that just oozes cool. Their music is gorgeously feel-good and soulful, with hyper-catchy rhythms and a funky, bright, colorful backbone that perfectly compliments Michaela Clark’s world-class singing. Their 2021 LP Ticket to Flavor Town set an outrageously high bar for quality. And that wasn’t all too surprising, given this band is made up of some of the region’s most storied and easily recognizable musicians.

The C&G Spot opens up with You’re the Best, a track starting with chipper guitar and finger snaps that guide in Michaela Clark’s vocal prowess. There’s a very chill vibe to that subtle but strong intro, which gets rinsed in a warm flourish of lead and backing vocals before kicking into one of Caviar & Grits’ signature grooves.

Drummer Moses Valle keeps things moving at a cozy but complex pace with a glorious Bonham-esque shuffle, with Jim Lomonaco dishing up a steady and sturdy bass walk that local music connoisseurs would recognize instantly as his playing. Joe Kollar adds a lot of atmosphere on electric guitar to compliment Clark’s Acoustasonic riffs. And Tyson Alston fills the sound out even further with a perfect composition on keys, evolving into an impressive solo that stands out without letting go of any of the song’s perfectly-paced steam.

Good, Good Love is the perfect lead single for The C&G Spot

It’s no wonder why the next track, Good, Good Love, serves as The C&G Spot’s lead single. This is a bluesy, soulful number that greatly attributes itself to the overall summation of Caviar & Grits’ sound, to the point where it could almost serve as the band’s musical head and shoulders shot. It’s a song that convinces your hips to sway and your head to bop.

We’re two for two on me referring to their songs as warm. There’s a lot of warmth on display in this bluesy but upbeat groove; it’s almost like a musical hug. Clark is a singer who can take you to church whenever she feels like it, and you better have your Sunday fineries ready before you sit down for this one. Alston really stands out on this track too, with a stunning Hammond solo that lands stylistically somewhere between John Paul Jones and Dr. Lonnie Smith, with a healthy dose of Sly Stone funkiness in there for good measure.

Keep Diggin

The third track, Keep Diggin‘, changes gears quite a bit from the previous two on The C&G Spot. This track utilizes a tight, textured, percussive groove to fire up Clark’s vocals, charged with financially motivated (and extremely relatable) lyrics.

Jim Lomonaco shines on this track in a big way, laying down an intricate and explorative bass riff that really keystones everything together brilliantly. His jog around the fretboard around the four-minute mark is a great example of why I love his playing so much. And if you’ve seen Caviar & Grits’ 2024 Tiny Desk entry, you already know what’s coming up midway through this song: another of Alston’s excellent solos, and yet another case of Clark delivering a vocal masterclass.

This is another song where Moses Valle earns a few dozen gold stars, too. On a track where so many drummers might just lay down some pavement for the rest of the gang to traverse, Valle doubles down on the depth of the sound while putting his hats through their paces.

It’s worth noting that despite not hearing Keep Diggin’ since Saturday, this track is still nestled in my brain as of the final edit on this review on Monday morning. I woke up humming it and it hasn’t budged an inch. If Caviar & Grits are still looking to add another single to the lineup, this would be a solid contender.

Why Do I Stay Might be the best song on The C&G Spot

I first heard Why Do I Stay when Caviar & Grits used the song for their mind-blowing 2023 Tiny Desk submission. So when they announced The C&G Spot, I was really hoping for a studio version of this song to make the cut. And even after a couple of decades of professional writing, I’m having a hard time putting into words just how magnificently this band fulfilled my every expectation with this track. Well, without using a slew of expletives, anyway.

I’ll go so far as to say that in my humble opinion, Why Do I Stay is the best song on The C&G Spot … and it might even be my personal favorite from the entire Caviar & Grits catalog, for that matter. It’s a track that really just makes you feel alive when you listen to it. And it’s one where every single member of the band is shining brightly, none more so than Joe Kollar, whose guitar solo in this song is quite literally flawless. Not that you’d expect much less from this seasoned Driftwood veteran.

Some of those expletives are well earned here by Michaela Clark, whose singing is … I almost did it again … let’s just say it’s very, very, very good. Few singers can transition so capably between crunchy soul and blistering rock and roll belting. This song really is bottled magic. There are no two ways about it.

Can’t Win ‘Em All

Can’t Win ‘Em All, the final track on The C&G Spot, serves as proof of Caviar & Grits’ musical concept, making a subtle but noticeable stylistic departure from the EP’s four other tracks.

This is a harder-hitting blues than you get elsewhere on the EP, with overtones worked into a track that could otherwise fairly draw some comparisons with Radiohead’s earliest breakout hit, Creep. Clark’s immaculate, emotional vocals, Kollar’s Greenwood-esque lead guitar offering, Valle’s bluesy jazz grooves, and the smokey, almost ethereal reverb permeating the mix … it’s in there if you listen for it.

Of course, this is still decidedly Caviar & Grits, and their signature sound is ever-present. Occasional blues dives on the guitar toss the track straight into the Delta, and there’s a very subtle steeping of jazziness here, less of a nod toward Edith Piaf than a peripheral glance, likely stemming from the progression Clark uses in her vocal delivery. It’s a track that’s enjoyable with one listen, and then grows on you more and more with each additional run.

The C&G Spot is a soulful and stunning EP from a band destined for big things

This isn’t something we’ve set in stone, but there’s been some talk amongst the tiny team here at Parlor City Sound of possibly ending the year with some sort of awards show to recognize the very best the Binghamton music scene has to offer. We haven’t decided if we’ll do that or not just yet. But if we do, I think I can safely call it here: The C&G Spot is likely scoring a nomination for album of the year.

The songs are brilliantly written. Every instrument is performed flawlessly. Michaela Clark’s singing is a tour de force. On the production end, this is a proper AAA studio-grade recording with an incredible mixdown. I’m honestly going out of my way to find something to constructively criticize, and I’m coming up dry.

Caviar & Grits are one of the best bands in the city, and this is a city with some staggeringly talented acts. The C&G Spot is a phenomenal EP from start to finish. And maybe that’s where I can find something to criticize here. The worst thing about this album is that there isn’t more of it.

The C&G Spot is set for release on May 3rd 2024. Be sure to pre-save it. This isn’t a release you’ll want to miss.

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