The Americana revival movement is getting hard to ignore no matter what kind of music you prefer. It’s penetrating everything from mainstream rock to folk and country music, the latter of which can be found in its purest strain in the new EP Written in Whiskey by Larry Jay. Jay’s name first came onto my radar not too long ago when he released a string of singles ahead of this virginal record, and while I anticipated liking what I was going to hear out of this EP, I didn’t think I would be coming across a player as ready for the spotlight as he sounds in all four of these songs.
Larry Jay has a lot going for him – charisma, lyrical abilities, and a sense of kinship with the beat that even makes slower songs like “Blood” come off without a hitch, but chief among his best attributes has got to be his singing abilities. When this man starts to croon in “Saving Lives,” it’s as if there’s no one else in the world but artist and audience, building a relationship that could stand the test of time without fail. He’s intimate, and he doesn’t need an insular mix to make this mood his theme here.
The backing band giving Jay some assistance in this record deserves plenty of credit on its own, especially in songs like the title track and the spellbinding opener “Bad Ass Beautiful.” They’re able to keep up the blue-collar country aesthetic without sounding overly mechanical in their performance, which is a lot harder than it might sound on paper. The chemistry is top-notch, but it’s also not distracting us from the poetic narrative that our singer is so artfully trying to present both in and between the verses he’s serenading us with in Written in Whiskey.
Of all the new EPs that I’ve listened to in this genre over the past four months, I think this qualifies as a definite must-listen for country music fans and especially those with a taste for the bucolic this season. Instead of following the status quo with his debut record, Larry Jay is being a little adventurous with both his choice of material as well as the persona he’s offering up to us as his own, and no matter what he does in or outside of the studio for his next project, I hope he sticks with this highly accessible, generally likable attitude.