Album Review: Jay Taylor – Hold On

Jay Taylor

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Jay Taylor – Hold On

EP Review of Jay Taylor: Hold On

That voice. There’s something special about Jay Taylor‘s voice. Something completely country about it, too. Not modern country, though. Not necessarily old-school country, either. I’d call it timeless country. He can do the old-school songs, which are clearly close to his heart, and make them seem modern and appealing to audiences across the country sub-genres. Of course, I raved about Jay’s voice when I wrote this live review a couple months ago. And I’m sure I’ll do it again next time I write about him.

The songs on this five-track EP are earworms. Give them a listen and they’ll come back to you at the oddest times. Hold On is a collection of well-written songs delivered by one of the finest country voices you’ll ever hear.

Jay Taylor - Hold OnThis disc kicks off with the song that hooked me when I first heard it months ago, the title track “Hold On.” Right off the bat, the twanging guitar will grab you, and Jay’s earnestly powerful vocal joins right in, evolving “Hold On” into the hookiest, catchiest, most fun songs about drinking moonshine you’ve ever heard.

“How I Wanted To” is a heartfelt love-lost song with a twang and drum roll that would be at home in the 1970s but delivered with just enough modern pop and country edge that it stakes its claim as a contemporary number, even featuring a timeless harmonica bridge.

“The Green Dress Song” is another pure country ditty. I always think of slower tempos when I think of George Strait, but I can absolutely hear George’s rich, emotional country voice – with just enough country twang – in Jay’s vocals on this charming uptempo song with enough slide guitar to sound as if it came straight from the Opry stage.

The “ohs” in “The Light” suggest balladic Elvis, but Jay delivers it with a rich, full vocal that’s entirely his own. This lyrically interesting crooner about a nomadic soul would be as at-home in an arena with an audience full of lighters (or smartphone screens) held aloft as it would be in a 1950s high school gymnasium during a homecoming dance.

The nomadic soul theme continues with “Hello Railroad,” but this one has more of a Johnny Cash flavor to it. To no one’s surprise, of course, Jay’s voice is up to the challenge.

In summary, Hold On is catchy, engaging country music that will stand the test of time performed by a modern country boy with one of the finest, most versatile voices you’ll ever hear.

Looking Ahead

Jay’s a fun, laid-back showman with a great voice, so I’ll certainly get out to see him perform again whenever I can if I see he’s performing in my area. If you’re in Charlotte, NC, you’ll get a chance when he’s at Tin Roof of December 2nd. And on December 3rd, he’ll be at the Tin Roof in Columbia, SC. Jay’s schedule includes several other Tin Roof stops, in Lexington, KY on Friday, December 16th, and in Louisville, KY on Saturday, December 17th and Friday December 30th. Several 2017 shows are on Jay’s calendar, again hitting the Tin Roofs in Charlotte, Columbia, Louisville, and Lexington. Click on the tour page of his website for more details on those shows and to see when he adds additional dates. Until you get a chance to hear him perform live, though, check out the Hold On EP.

Geoff’s Night Out: Jay Taylor at Jasper Hill Cafe & Bistro

Jay Taylor at Jasper Hill Cafe & Bistro

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Jay Taylor

Jasper Hill Cafe & Bistro, Holliston, MA

September 7, 2016

The Backstory

Earlier this year, when perusing live music schedules in the area, I stumbled across a Jay Taylor listing at the Jasper Hill Cafe & Bistro. I couldn’t get out to that gig, but I was impressed enough with his music that I added one of his tunes to a personal SoundCloud playlist – yes, I’ve been remiss in posting a new public playlist, but when I do, Jay’s “Hold On” will be on it. In any case, when he was back in the area this time, I made sure to get out to hear him. Coincidentally, he was at the same venue through whose concert listings I initially discovered his music.

The Concert

There ain’t no two ways about it. This dude has a special voice. It’s mid-range, but it’s rich and smooth, with the ability to go deeper if necessary and to add emotion without adding too much gravel to his voice. That’s – here’s that word again – special. Not that this was a surprise, of course. I’ve heard his recordings. It took a unique talent to get me to drive so far for live music on a Wednesday night.

Jay Taylor at Jasper Hill Cafe & Bistro

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Jay is currently touring with a full band. A very talented band, at that. Guitarist Steve Hensley periodically stole the show with his guitar histrionics, at home across genres. And Alex Pierson (bass) and Russ Sternglass (drums) comprised a tight rhythm section that could keep up with Jay – or toy with him a little when they wanted to. Jay added acoustic guitar to the mix while, of course, manning the lead vocals (except on a couple songs, on which the guys did a fine job, but they ain’t no Jay Taylor).

Jay opened the night with “Wagon Wheel,” showcasing his crisp, powerful vocals and sporting his harmonica. The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” also made an early appearance. Songs moved from mellow to rollicking throughout the night, and genre lines were crossed and blurred.

I noticed three songs from Jay’s EP Hold On during the evening. The title track (and still my favorite) was the earliest entry, following the Eagles and, dare I say, kicking the Eagles’ butts, in part due to its increased tempo, of course. All the sharpness, power, kick, and hook of the recorded version made their way over to the live rendition and, if anything, were amplified. A little later, Jay growled his way through “How I Wanted To,” accompanied by a tale that exhibited both his stage presence and his comfort in front of an audience.

Jay Taylor at Jasper Hill Cafe & Bistro

photo by Geoff Wilbur

A bit later in the set, the other song Jay performed from Hold On, “The Green Dress Song,” was delivered with a hint of twang and a pretty strong, hooky rhythm that was stepped up a bit from the recording. It was followed a few songs later by Jay’s fourth and final (that I noticed, at least) original of the night, a solo acoustic performance of “Back Road”; this tune starts out its verses in a vocal tone that initially seems ominous before becoming more apparently sentimental as each verse unfolds. I’m not sure I’m describing it properly, but it’s another sign of Jay’s deft vocal skills and worth noticing if you listen closely enough.

The rest of the set, which stretched almost three hours, ranged from Alabama to Bruce Springsteen, from Randy Travis to Elvis, and from Merle Haggard to Eagle Eye Cherry. As the hours passed, the tone of the evening grew more and more country, particularly old-fashionedly so.

The Elvis song, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” was loungy (in a good, Vegasy Elvis way), boppin’, and smooth. I also quite enjoyed Jay’s vocally oh-so-smooth version of John Anderson’s “Seminole Wind.” And he shook the room with a rousing rendition of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.”

As impressed as I was with Jay Taylor’s recorded music, I left the live performance that much more convinced he is one tiny break away from being a big-stage concert favorite; you know, the one “tiny” thing a talented, hard-working musician can’t control. (I’m almost never this impressed by a male country singer; this dude’s really good.) Of course, now that you know, there’s no reason to wait to hear Jay on the radio; check out his music for yourself… now.

Jay Taylor at Jasper Hill Cafe & Bistro

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

Jay has several upcoming gigs listed on his website. You can catch him tonight, Friday, September 9th at Loretta’s Last Call in Cambridge, MA. Tomorrow, Saturday, September 10th he’ll be taking the stage at 3:15 at the 19th Annual Wachusett Mountain MusicFest, on the main stage right before local favorite and former The Voice top-five finisher Kristen Merlin. The other September gigs are Tuesday, September 20th at the Opry Backstage Grill (Nashville, TN); Wednesday and Thursday, September 21st and 22nd at Tin Roof (Louisville, KY); again Wednesday, September 28th at Tin Roof (Louisville, KY); and Friday, September 30th back at the Opry Backstage Grill (Nashville, TN). The remaining gigs listed are all at Tin Roof bars – Fridays, October 21st and December 2nd in Charlotte, NC and Saturdays, October 22nd and December 3rd in Columbia, SC. Obviously, there are a bunch of open dates in there, so keep an eye on Jay’s website to see if those dates are filled in at clubs near you.