Album Review: Jay Brown – “Soul to Soul”
The level of improvement that singer/songwriter Jay Brown reveals with each new release hints at a talent that just might bust the walls open of the mainstream soon. On his latest effort, Soul to Soul, Brown has written his best songs yet; the lyrics are more focused and accessible, delivered with newly found swagger and knife-sharp musicianship. Brown doesn’t sound like he is aiming for a small audience anymore; while the words are still personal and injected with quirks – “Fire in the Sky” is about the famous UFO crash at Roswell – the music and production breathe commercial sensibilities that could not be found with his previous work.
Echoes of vintage Neil Young and Crosby, Stills and Nash can be heard throughout the record. In fact, the whole album has an early ‘70s vibe. Brown captures the wind-swept melancholy of Young’s balladry on the title track, and his lyrics sting like Jackson Browne in his prime: “It’s just the ones I love who ever hurt me.”
Brown’s affection for American roots music is no secret; experimenting with folk, country, and jazz has been part of his menu since the beginning. Nevertheless, on Soul to Soul those influences blend more smoothly than they ever had before. “Down Spiral Blues” is just as bluesy as its title suggests, with sweltering, jamming guitar. “Carmella” is folk filtered through the Fab Four. “Moonflower” reflects the lush beauty of CSN’s finest harmony-drenched classics. Then there’s the aforementioned oddity “Fire in the Sky,” which rocks raggedly like the Velvet Underground, proving that Brown is capable of anything. Soul to Soul is among the year’s best, easily.