Jay Spears
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Jay Spears

Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter


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"Music Review: Jay Spears - What's Not to Like?"

Music Review: Jay Spears - What's Not to Like?
by Robert Farrar www.psychodrome.co.uk

Jay Spears is funny, angry, sexy, generous and badly-behaved. He enjoys himself more than a pop star should. He has no interest in being cool or post-modern or evasive. He is a true heir of the '60s, when style and political engagement were more congruent, and pop music had more spiritual energy.

Spears is engaged in a project: the creation of a fictitious homotopia, in which old-fashioned, folksy values are reclaimed for the queer folk. On the whole it is a gently comic vision, but it is always subtly subversive and it occasionally erupts into full-on political activism. Spears is an eccentric and an original, less pretentious than the established gay pop stars, but funnier, more radical and more now.

A recap: the first CD, Boy Howdy, was a ragbag of songs in a somewhat loose assortment of styles, unified by Spears' hilarious wordsmithing and strident personality.

The key-note was comedy. There were stories about flaunting your hot date in front of disappointed rivals, guys who come up with inadequate excuses when they cancel ("He got a new puppy so he had to stay home"), days from hell when you drop your wallet in the toilet. The stand-out track was the delirious I Like Mike ("I like Mike, what's not to like?") a hot voodoo swing number with duelling saxes and a chorus of studs ("We like Mike!"). The musical and cultural references are consciously retro; '50s wholesomeness/squareness is subsumed into the agenda.

The new CD, Playin' On My Team, has a thicker, more confident sound, and the eclectic elements coalesce into a signature style, guitar-pop with an agenda. Once again he is supported by his Harmonious Hetero Homeboys and other guest stars. The drums sound better, the backing vocal arrangements are excellent as ever and there's great work from solo instrumentalists (the spectre of Brian May continues to hover magisterially over the feast). Spears himself plays guitar, bass, mouth organ and banjo.

The hilarity is less manic this time, tempered by more depth and atmosphere. Swept Away describes a swimming accident on a camping trip, and yields a nice goose-bumps moment when you realise that Spears is actually talking about something else: no matter how wholesome or well-meaning we may be, sex (or does he just mean life?) is a force of nature and it's bigger than us. We could be happily married one minute and a lonesome cowboy the next. A haunting harmonica part (by Ken Deifik) chills the warmth of the campfire guitar. Perfect.

On Who Is This Guy? Spears lets go of his compulsion to amuse, and allows himself to be a poet, accompanied by a gorgeous gypsy violin (Darius Campo) and sexy Rawhide back-up vocals:
"Ask the right question if you know how:
What's going through my heart right now?"
The result is mature and authentic, reminiscent of some of Bob Dylan's Desire.

Jay Spears is an exuberant lyricist who manages, on the whole, to steer clear of any suggestion of showtunes (he's more cinematic than theatrical). Listening to him, one has the pleasant sensation of being massaged by wit.
It is characteristic of Spears' deceptive sophistication that he can pose as both naive and jaded at the same time.

He's a good vocalist in the sense that Dylan is a good vocalist: it's all about delivery. He throws himself into his songs with an abandon that at times can sound demented. He will hurl himself into dangerous narratives like the HIV-positive date and the dying mother, he will rant against born-again Christians ("Roll up the Bill of Rights and wap! wap! wap! 'em on the head!") But then, as he says himself, "walks on thin ice never before felt so nice."

It would be easy to dismiss him as a clown, but on closer inspection his work is quite profound, drawing on a wide range of folksy musical traditions, some of them from outside of pop's usual blues-based tradition.

I leave you with a typically fabulous couplet from Smak Dem Christians Down, an instant classic which should be blasted regularly from rooftops and sung at the end of dinner parties. I would also suggest that Jay Spears CDs be given out in schools with milk and cookies.
"If you wanna live in a theocracy, maybe ya
Ought to move to Saudi Arabia…"

Jay Spears' CDs can be ordered at his website and at CD Baby. - Robert Farrar www.psychodrome.co.uk

"CD Review: Jay Spears BOY HOWDY"

It's a joy, an absolute joy from the opening chords of the opening song it leaps out of the speakers. Fine songwriting, fine performances all fired with an unignorable joie de vivre and lifeaffirming exhuberance. Without hesitation I warmly recommend a recent discovery from my 6 Music Evening Sequence show: JAY SPEARS. I like Jay's album "Boy Howdy" so much that if you buy it from his website and don't agree, you can post it on to me at PO BOX 3185 London SW18 3JG and I'll refund your money personally!
Spears has a wonderful sureness of touch: lines like "He's got an attitude bordering on bratitude, give the guy some latitude" or "I dropped my wallet in the toilet" are as great as anything by Dylan or Eminem. In conception and execution his tracks have such huge exhuberance, originality and sheer joie de vivre I was grinning all over my face with enjoyment.
I present a new music show on 6 Music for BBC Digital Radio three hours a night, four nights a week. I could play a song of Spears' right alongside The Strokes or Busta Rhymes or Ani Di Franco without a word of explanation - and get listener e-mails clamouring to know who the hell he is. In fact, on my next show I intend to.
-- Tom Robinson, BBC6 - Tom Robinson, BBC6

"CD Review: Jay Spears PLAYIN' ON MY TEAM"

Oh Hell yeah. (condensed review in 10/06's Challenge; Reviewer: Bill Stella, Highest Common Denominator)
Playin' On My Team scores big by mixing sincerity, fun, and pop music tributes in a breakthrough style of manly homo-pop. Equal measures of humor and melancholy in the lyrics, of tradition and innovation in the songs, combine handsomely. I enjoy the hit parade of pop styles Jay pays tribute to. The title track's harmonies blend with good spirits to remind me of what made The Turtles' music memorable. Contact Ringo Starr's management -- Jay's "I Will Always Love You" should be in his repertoire. (Bonus: A one-off "yeah, yeah, yeah" appears late in the song.) "Who Is This Guy?" might be "I Like Mike" redux: Melancholy morning-after musings, similar strumming as on "Mike", but in a minor key and joined by an unsettled, unsettling fiddling (by Darius Campo) are as beautiful in performance as those inescapable next day questions are unwelcome. It reminds me of the Ringo-featured Beatles song "Don't Let Me Down" if it had transmuted into something unassailably sincere and honest. Jay revises traditional musical forms for his own purposes. "Swept Away" recalls upbeat (but cautionary), country-flavored storysongs. "Hey Arnie" lovingly rips off the banjo intro from Herman's Hermits' "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter", reviving its skiffle style. And there's one from my dream list of "Songs Gay Men Should Cover": The Angels' "My Boyfriend's Back". "Playin'"s standout track is "Drive Time": it brilliantly takes on the Hell that is heavy traffic. The manic rhythm, like Don Henley's Dirty Laundry's "Kick 'em when they're up / Kick 'em when they're down" hook, powers rhythmic, uniquely-shifting spoken vocals over deceptively familiar-sounding dance tracks. As if a Devo tour bus driven by Jon Anderson (Yes) singing baritone, with guests The Bonzo Dog Band onboard had crashed into a studio where Paul McCartney was messing around for hits and giggles, "Drive Time"'s head-on impact is dead funny - and true; the abstract idea elements collide cleanly to release a kind of music concrete. When it's over, it sends me home engaged and delighted and, like a good night out at the game, ready for bed. Manly, yes -- But I like it, too. Oh Hell yeah. - Bill Stella, Highest Common Denominator


BOY HOWDY debut album 2003



Jay Spears was born in L.A. but traveled the world as an Air Force Brat with family, living in Turkey, England, and Ireland; 19 places before high school!
Now settled in his native Los Angeles, Jay's debut CD "BOY HOWDY" featured humorous, gay-friendly boy-meets-boy pop tunes with titles like "I LIKE MIKE" and "CRYIN' OVER BRIAN". The I LIKE MIKE music video, featuring swing-dancing baseball players, played in film festivals worldwide, and was the first music vid ever to play on the LOGO channel.
BOY HOWDY was nominated for Outstanding Album 2003 by Outmusic, and earned Jay compliments like "the gay love-child of Randy Newman and Tom Waits"!
Jay's sophomore CD includes the full-choir gospel rocker, "SMAK DEM CHRISTIANS DOWN", the video for which has over 60,000 views on youtube.
Basically born and bred on the Beatles, Jay's guitar and songwriting style is greatly influenced by cinema and theatre. In college Jay earned his Daily Bread playing guitar, banjo, & mandolin in the pit orchestras for musicals in the university drama department, everything from Hello Dolly to Man of La Mancha to Jesus Christ Superstar. As a result his songs have strong characters, story, even dialogue, and chord changes and harmonies with a distinctly American Theater vibe.
Now working on his third CD, Jay's perspective and focus is broadening, taking on life in the Big City with tunes like "When The Big One Hits" about our fab yet shaky Southern California Lifestyle, "Guy In The Sky" about God or lack thereof, and "Meat", about, well, meat.
Comedy is his key-note, and a British reviewer observes "On the whole it is a gently comic vision, but it is always subtly subversive and it occasionally erupts into full-on political activism. Spears is an eccentric and an original, less pretentious than the established gay pop stars, but funnier, more radical and more now. It would be easy to dismiss him as a clown, but on closer inspection his work is quite profound."
So that's Jay Spears for you, a life-long entertainer ready to give your audience a funny, smart, sophisticated, and fabulous time they'll never forget.