Jay Gavin - Road Ready

Good Time Charlie’s Records

***1/2

When your first album doesn’t come out until you’re in your sixties, you’ve got a backlog of stories to tell. And if you’ve lived a life like Jay Gavin’s, those stories could fill one hundred albums. Born and raised in a fishing community in Prince Edward Island, off the East Coast of Canada, Jay graduated from the folksy roots music of home to touring the world playing bass in various punk and metal bands. In between he worked on fishing boats, in logging camps, tobacco fields, construction sites and film sets, anything to keep the wolf away from the door. A few years ago, he returned to his folk and country roots and working solo or as Jay Gavin & the Tired Sunday Choir, embarked on his new life as a singer-songwriter troubadour. He has blossomed into an impressive singer-songwriter with a wicked sense of humour and a down-home delivery marinated in his whiskey-stained twang. For the most part, ROAD READY, his third album, is a tour de force of Jay’s versatility. A genre-melding maverick, he boldly makes forays into his own infectious brand of outlaw country, honky-tonk, Tex-Mex, blues, Americana, country-rock and traditional country elements. It all works together because Jay knows what the purists don’t: It’s all country music. Nay, it’s all good country music—and with the right smarts and attention to style, you can pull it off. If only it was as easy as Jay Gavin makes it seem. 

In recent years, the outlaw country descriptor has become increasingly nebulous. Is it a sound, a fashion style, an overarching aesthetic or lifestyle? What does it mean? In that sense, it’s like the equivalent of punk rock (something Jay knows a lot about), where it becomes a catch-all for musicians and artists who don’t fit neatly into either a genre-specific subculture or in its mainstream. Jay is without doubt a worthy figure in a lineage that includes Billy Joe Shaver, Bobby Bare, Tompall Glaser, Dick Damron and good ol’ Waylon and Willie; the genuine outlaws, who lived the life, not like today’s young whippersnappers that are mere pretenders. 

From a distance, there’s a lot to like about ROAD READY. The songs are loose and informal, and it sounds as if everyone had a really good time working together. Itis all over the map and I don’t just mean figuratively. The listener gets a glimpse into the troubadour lifestyle, traveling (among other places) to Nevada for a Tex-Mex romp to Muhlenberg County, Kentucky for a touching nod to the late John Prine, a trip down to New Orleans, then up to Nashville’s Third & Lindsley, followed by a ride out west to mourn the passing of the cowboy way of life. It’s a journey very much worth the time, and he does have some intriguing tales to tell, it would seem—and the listener is invited along for the ride.

Mexican Food, Cold Beer & Tattoos is a chugging, straight-ahead scamper propelled by accordion, as this fun-packed yarn unfolds with a joyful Tex-Mex vibe. There’s an easy-going lope to Feels Like Rain, a nostalgic reflection of a road warrior and all the little things back home that he missed whilst on his travels. From the good-hearted freedom of the driving Road Ready to the rapid-fire revelry found in The Girl From The Liquor Store, with its jaunty arrangement of banjo and fiddle and energetic Roger Miller-styled scat-singing, Jay Gavin has the ability to relate to his listeners with simple choruses that entice them to join in. Backed up by the salty tang of infectious arrangements and a handful of legendary session musicians, these tunes ooze with country, blues and rock grooves. This is a record, which deserves to have much success; a life story in song that needed to be told through the music of this talented man.

www.jaygavinmusic.com

June 2024