Clayton Gardner is all Texan. He's a native of Houston, and now based out of College Station. While attending college at A&M, this Aggie picked up a guitar for the first time and taught himself to play. Needless to say, Gardner got a late start on the Texas music scene, but you would hardly know it by listening to his EP, 'Here to Stay'.

I have to admit, I don't know Clayton. Never heard of him before I was handed this EP. So, with no preconceived notions, I took a close listen.

The first song, 'I Won't Settle Down', is a co-write with talented producer Mack Damon. This song immediately grabbed my attention and made me pick up the CD case to take a closer look. Well done. It's an upbeat, made-for-the-honky tonk song that will play well on Texas country radio. It will be interesting to see how far it goes on the charts.

The tempo changes for the song 'Table For Two', but this is a great country love song. It's about this point that I realized that Clayton Gardner has a pretty rich singing voice.The lyrics are good, and the song is put together very well.

'Strong Enough To Leave' might be my favorite song. It's clear that Gardner grew up listening to his share of George Strait records, and he learned a lot from what he heard. It takes a little while to get to the hook of the song, but I don't care and neither should you. This is a great song.

'Love You Right' and 'Happy Ending' continue to show off Gardner's strong voice and his neo-traditional country style. Throughout this EP, Clayton simply sounds like he is where he belongs. Nothing is forced or unnatural. When you listen to the ambitiously titled 'Here to Stay', you have to believe that this conveys a true statement to Clayton Gardner's budding career.

His tunes are catchy. If Clayton works hard and gains more experience, he promises to be a force in the Texas country music scene, and has the potential to take his straight-forward country music to a national audience if he wants. Gardner is certainly keeping busy playing the Texas bar circuit, so there's no reason to believe he doesn't have all the tools. I look forward to hearing a lot more from him in the future.

Here's a video of Clayton doing an acoustic version of his single, 'I Won't Settle Down', live at Bostock's in Stephenville, Texas.