When I heard Bright Eyes for the first time, it was when I randomly stumbled across “First Day of My Life” on one of those yahoo radio stations, of all places! Do they still exist? I also “found” Rilo Kiley on there, so am very grateful they ever did, but I digress. I immediately fell for Oberst’s beautifully emotive vocals and the simple, heart wrenching guitar playing. This song didn’t need effects or excessive noise – it just existed, and in that moment, it was just the song and me. I was in love with music all over again. It takes something very special to make me feel that way.
Fast forward about eight years, and I received an email about an unknown-to-me singer by the name of Jay Woodward. Well, I couldn’t predict the feeling I got when I pressed play on the bandcamp stream of his 2013 album, “Letters We Told”. The instrumental first track “Mandolina” kicked in with its beautiful melody, and I was absolutely blown away. I was hooked. I’m a sucker for anything that includes strings, especially something so wonderful, natural and relaxing.
Having had the scene set, I proceeded to listen to the rest of the album. By the time I was half way through “Garden in the Sun”, I was flooded with emotion, and promptly burst into tears. Maybe it was the mood I was in anyway, maybe it was the fact I was hearing something so perfect for that mood, maybe I simply identified with the lyric. I can’t pinpoint why I cried, but I can tell you that for anyone to have that effect on me, especially someone I’ve never spoken to, or even heard of, is an incredible thing.
Next on the album is “Howl”, a nice, upbeat tune with a fluidity within it that I’m certain takes utmost skill to achieve. Jay is in touch with his abilities, and I like that he doesn’t push it too far. This song has a crescendo of sorts, provided by cymbals at various stages. It makes me think of crashing waves against a rocky beach. Rather lovely.
“The Truth” is a gentle, lilting tune which has an almost folk feel to it that I really enjoy. It’s a lovely link between its neighbouring songs – Jay has really thought about placement here, and that pleases me no end!
The next song, “ Believe the Honest in Your Veins”, got me so involved that I forgot where I was and what I was doing! The hushed vocals coupled with the message of how painful it is trying to be free are almost at odds with one another – I don’t mind betting some people will miss out on what Jay is telling us here, but in that respect I really like how intelligently this song has been put together.
“I Will Be Glad” has got what sounds like the crackle of vinyl in the background. I remember thinking during track two how good this album would sound on vinyl, and now I’m thinking it again. It has to happen, please! This is a delightful instrumental track, complete with Hawaiian sounding guitar the sounds of a gentle tide. This is nature within music.
My favourite song on the album is “Little Bird”. It soothes, and it heals. I could listen to this all day long, and feel at complete peace.
Jay turns it up a notch with the penultimate track, “Don’t Fall Asleep”. In other songs, he uses percussion to enhance the music. In this tune, we hear a more full drum-machine provided beat, albeit gentle and brooding, and a dark, grinding guitar sound. I like this departure from his seemingly usual style.
Last up on the album is the title track, “Letters We Told”. An introspective, heartbreaking look at where we are in the world, and how it’s all got the potential to go so wrong, this is the nevertheless the perfect mellow end to the album.
In December ’13, Jay released his first single, “Winter Song”, which you can listen to and buy here:
Jay is clearly a man who wears his heart on his sleeve with a complete absence of fear about what people will think about that. He also doesn’t complicate his songs with unnecessarily intricate effects, and I like that. The words and the music provide the message he wants to convey. I have certainly been touched by his music, and believe there are great things ahead for him.
Contact Jay and listen to his music in the following zones: