Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines a ballad as "a narrative composition in rhythmic verse suitable for singing." I don't know if Jim Clements had that definition in mind when he wrote these songs, but Kill Devil Hills is chock-full of beautiful ballads.
Jim Clements could easily be compared to Cat Stevens. In particular, "Strangest Places" reminds me of "Oh Very Young." But there are two other artists that Clements reminds me of and one requires a little more explanation than the other.
I'll start with the easy one. Clements reminds me most of Angie Aparo, one of the best songwriters I've heard recently. You may not know Aparo, but chances are you know his song "Cry," for which Faith Hill won a Grammy. Clements has a very similar vocal style to Angie.
The other songwriter that Clements reminds me of is Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Jeff Tweedy has a pretty serious dark side that comes through in some of his songs, especially on Summerteeth. Clements's dark streak doesn't run quite as deep as Tweedy's, but there are two songs on this album ("Before the Beating Starts" and "Coming Up Roses") with some heavy-duty lyrics. I say all that to say this: Jim Clements has a way of making darkness beautiful, just like Jeff Tweedy.
This album is full of melodic ballads with mostly acoustic guitar and vocals, although the harmonica, Hammond organ, cello and accordion also appear in some of the songs. Clements shows himself a talented songwriter and I expect good things from him down the road. If you like any of the artists I mentioned, I'm sure you'll like this as well.