Softly, softly

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Musicreviews - TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

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

Sea

Jay­may: made in – and for – Man­hat­tan

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