In music industry parlance, they’re known as “soft releases” – risk-taking records by unknown acts that ache for a big push but are instead filtered through the layers of music critics, radio programmers and support slots.
These albums are usually from older musicians, singers and songwriters who have track records but no commercial success; people with talent but whose industry backers are taking a cautious punt.
You can throw such caution to the wind in the case of 26-yearold New Yorker Jaymay (real name Jamie Kristine Seerman), whose debut album arrives at the fag end of the year but is up there with the best of 2007.
The most complimentary thing you can say about Autumn Fallin’ is that it’s a square-shaped singersongwriter concoction that slots almost smoothly into a round hole. It contains recognisable and traditional structures, but it’s different enough to make it sound equal parts perfect and not-quite-there.
The difference between what’s present and what is not is Jaymay’s trump card. As part of NYC’s anti-folk scene (much of which is musical lamb dressed as mutton), Jaymay cut her teeth performing folk music at openmic nights at small bars around the city. She came to songwriting late (2003) by fusing her obsession with Bob Dylan into a sequence of picaresque portraits of love in downtown Manhattan. Make no mistake, Autumn Fallin’ is a record of romance and its associated pitfalls and triumphs; it is also devoid of cliche or lachrymose sentiment.
Jaymay has rare observant traits in this area, and most of the songs on her enchanting and compelling debut ring with the clarity of experience and truth. Matters of the heart are elegantly sketched, ruefully explained and poignantly expressed.
They may nimbly reference her influences (Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Laura Nyro) but, for the most part, they are defiantly, deftly and definitely Jaymay. www.jaymaymusic.com Download tracks: Sycamore Down, Sea Green, See Blue, You’d Rather Run
Jaymay: made in – and for – Manhattan