Merry Clayton

Beautiful Scars
(Motown Gospel)

In the wake of a star turn in the Oscar-winning 2014 documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, Merry Clayton’s decades as an A-list, backing vocalist in the shadow of artists like Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan seemed to be making way for her own moment in the sun. That is, until a devastating car accident claimed both of her legs below the knees. At first unsure if she’d ever sing again, Beautiful Scars is evidence of her ironclad spirit.

The album opens with a version of Leon Russel’s “A Song For You,” a song Clayton originally recorded for her 1971 self-titled solo album. Highlights include “He Made A Way,” a holy-rolling, pew rocker that would be at home on an Andre Crouch album, and the Diane Warren-penned original “Beautiful Scars.” Clayton delivers a stirring performance bolstered by her own testimony, one that proves that she is much more that the mysterious woman who sings the spine-tingling coda of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

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