Tuesday, August 18, 2015

MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: JAY AYMAR – THE CHICKEN CAME FIRST (book and CD)

Talk about your extensive liner notes! Aymar’s latest, a live one, doesn’t have a booklet, it has a book. Yes, a real, full-length, full-sized book. Actually, it’s more of a case of the book also including a CD, but whatever. It’s the best way to take in everything Aymar does. He’s a storyteller, writing, singing, or in person.

The collection came about as an extension of what Aymar has been doing the past while, writing down his stories and observations in blog postings. The project took on a bigger scope earlier this year when friends found a great-sounding church where he could record with an audience. Everything was in place.

As a songwriter, Aymar shines best when he’s telling you tale soaked in big truths. He’s learned these the hard way, touring the country endlessly, playing off the beaten path on purpose, and finding the best people that way. In fact, he’s even given up any idea of a home, other than the road. He’s become the modern troubadour, at home everywhere and nowhere officially.

With the book, you get even more insight into what makes him tick, and what Canada is about. When Aymar inevitably runs into a deer on the highway, a series of great-hearted people come to his aid, just because they are decent, and because they are in a position to help. We drop into every province and territory with him, and start to understand what it is that drives Aymar and his fellow touring musicians to keep going, to bring their talents to the people who appreciate them.

If you’re one of the many semi-pros that share some of the spirit, Aymar even includes the sheet music to the album tunes. And there are guests, both in print and on disc. The terrific young Toronto singer Jadea Kelly takes the lead on Always In Her Dreams, while legendary promoter and publicist Richard Flohil contributes a chapter on the realities of Canada’s music biz, and the true spirit of it all as found in these independent musicians. Aymar and company have done more than entertain here; this will give you insight, and a new respect for anyone who chooses this profession, and it gives you a little bit more national pride as well.

Review by Bob Mersereau
Fredericton, New Brunswick, CanadaA veteran Canadian broadcaster, Bob Mersereau specializes in popular music writing. He’s been with CBC TV and Radio since 1982, and regularly reports on the arts. Bob is the author of the Top 100 Canadian Albums, a national best-seller published in 2007, and The Top 100 Canadian Singles, published in September 2010, both from Goose Lane Editions. His music column appears each week on CBC Radio 1 in New Brunswick, on the program Shift, and he has written music articles and reviews for such publications as The Coast Magazine, The Telegraph Journal, and The Globe and Mail. He’s also the recipient of the 2014 Stompin’ Tom Award from the East Coast Music Association.

——-

June 4, 2015. The Sault Star. Sault Ste. Marie, ON. Canada.
by Brian Kelly.

Aymar Shares his Road Stories.

Jay Aymar is coming home just before his book detailing his funny road travels hits the shelves.

The Sault Ste. Marie native performs Saturday at 8 p.m. at Richard’s Landing Town Hall on St. Joseph Island.

The Toronto-based folk musician is preparing to launch his first book, The Chicken Came First (And Other Half-Truths From My Life as a Touring Songwriter), later this month.

The softcover release, expected to be about 200 pages, features edited versions of eight stories the Sir James Dunn Collegiate and Vocational School graduate first wrote for his blog at http://www.jayaymar.com

Aymar recounts his road trip to Wheeling, W. Va., the birthplace of country radio, hitting a moose outside Fort Frances, Ont., performing on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean and attending a Halloween party at the Ramada Inn, now Comfort Suites and Conference Centre, in his hometown.

“What I really want people to walk away with is an understanding of what it’s like to be a working independent musician in today’s world,” said Aymar.

There’s also four chapters of new material by the Canadian Folk Music Awards nominee.

The Chicken Came First starts with Aymar describing his Sault roots, his dreams of making it in the NHL, listening to Neil Young’s Harvest and “thinking I wanted to get a guitar.”

His first public performance was at a variety night at the Dunn when he was in Grade 13. His setlist – Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow, Neil Young’s Heart of Gold and Don McLean’s American Pie.

The book includes a 12-track live CD Aymar and his band recorded at Church of the Holy Trinity in Scarborough, Ont., in early February. Most are songs Aymar picked from his catalogue including All I Know, Crow and What a Dream. One, The Chicken Came First, was written for the winter show. All touch on Aymar’s “little bit of the questioning” of religious faith.

“I’m not overly spiritual,” he told The Sault Star in a telephone interview from Toronto earlier this week.

The Chicken Came First includes illustrations by Pearl Rachinsky and charts for the disc’s tracks. Aymar has fielded requests from “a lot of guitar players” who wanted his songs scored.

“ I thought this would be a nice way to do it in a book,” he said.

Aymar made sure the book is spiral bound so his work will lay flat for readers.

The Chicken Came First will be sold at Ithaka on Queen Street East. Cost is $30.

Aymar will be in the Sault visiting with family and friends before beginning a western Canadian tour with more than 20 dates including stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge.

b.kelly@sunmedia.ca

PENGUIN EGGS – 2013 SUMMER EDITION REVIEW- by Doug Swanson

Overtime (Independent)

 

Information on his website indicates this is the sixth album from Jay Aymar. Judging by the maturity, sophistication and clever bent to his lyrics and delivery, he has not been resting on his laurels, such as they may be.

New to these ears, there is no quibble about raising him to the higher rungs on the steep ladder of Canadian singer/songwriters, not just his contemporaries but of all time.

This is pure Canadiana, delving onto the breadth and diversity of this nation, its history and foibles and flaws. There are love songs and protest songs, environmental advocacy and humour.

Aymar is joined by David Baxter (guitar, mandolin, harmonium, vocals), Laura Bates (fiddle), Burke Carroll (Dobro), Lucas Gadke (bass, vocals), Treasa Levasseur (accordion, piano, vocals), Kara Manovich (kick drum, vocals) and Will Staunten (washboard, triangle).

Just a superb effort that cannot be recommended any higher.

 

— By Doug Swanson

Overtime

Review – by David Farrell, – 2013

New Canadian Music

Rubbish is rampantly successful; middling is excessively over indulged; and Jay Aymar is spectacularly under-rated. Aymar walks the same line as Tom T. Hall and John Prine, but there comparisons end. This 11-song  jug of acoustic country-blues, adorned by a brilliance of accomplished accompaniment set to perfection by player/producerDavid Baxter, takes the listener on a safari, with touchdowns in hometown Sault Ste. Marie (“Overtime”, “Acadian Son”, and “Monterey” – the district he grew up in); Iraq  (“Your Precious War”, a story about  a soldier’s misfortune); Washington (“King of the World”);  heartbreak hotel (“Your Sad and Lonely Heart”, “Three Love Stories”)to the earbud generation (“Tune Out, Turn Off, Drop By”). The artwork for the album is a Norman Rockwell bon mot. Aymar is a classic, and this album is a knockdown priced master-work.

David Farrell, 2013

NO DEPRESSION MAGAZINE

CD Review – Jay Aymar “Overtime

Reviewed by John Apice – May 1, 2013

After listening to many great releases by many talented artists I was afforded a chance to sit back and listen to something I can simply enjoy in the spirit in which it was made. This music was actually recommended to me by another musician I respect and admire.  

Jay Aymar has been mining a stylistic narrative songwriting vein for a few years now but this latest effort – “Overtime” — while being for selective tastes – and senses of humor – is a well-manicured lawn with not a weed in sight.

So, I sat, poured wine, closed my eyes and put my two arms behind my head and stretched out. After a listen or two I realized it was hard to pigeon hole because I asked myself: is this folk music? Maybe it’s dancehall music, no…no…it’s folk-burlesque, nah….it’s music-hall folk or…could it be a hybrid of Phil Ochs without the politics….no.

What it is:  It’s Jay Aymar filtered through the likes of the seriousness and humor of Roger Miller, the school of satirical and down home humor of John Prine and Randy Newman, the folksiness of Woody Guthrie and yeah….maybe even a little Steve Goodman and Townes Van Zandt. Jay may even be a distant cousin to the likes of Johnny Bond (“Hot Rod Lincoln”), Johnny Horton (“The Battle of New Orleans”) and Johnny Cymbal (“Mr Bass Man”). Lots of Johnny’s.

We’re getting closer to who Jay Aymar really is.

Beginning with the title track “Overtime” Jay’s new CD opens with humor both musical and lyrical. The talent and musical abilities of these musicians is superlative. There’s nothing here run of the mill, off the cuff or sloppy. Songs are not even clichés which surprises me when you add a sprinkle of humor to melodies.

The lead-off track reminds me of a 1975 album by Sam Leno – “Ordinary Man,” that had similar tracks of humor and pathos with Leno’s voice filled with the exuberance identical to Jay’s. “How are you going to miss me if I won’t go away?”

Sam Leno’s track “Bring It Back,” was a rollicking barn burner and Jay seems to have elevated that style effectively here on “Overtime.”  Now, Jay definitely couldn’t possibly be familiar with Sam Leno. How could he? As good as Sam’s album was back in 1975 – it’s basically an obscure curiosity today. It’s just ironic how close these two men could be influenced by the same threads of musical humor that mix into their balanced repertoire of songs.

The vocals — at times – are tongue in cheek as Jay carries the listener along as if they were in on a special joke. But was there ever a joke? During his talking portion of this song he is treading in Merle Haggard / Waylon Jennings territory but then he mustards it up with John Prine trimmings. Brilliant and enjoyable.

Roots of The Band surface with the excellent “Acadian Son.” Levon Helm, Richard Manuel or even Rick Danko could have tackled this one with gusto. It has that Garth Hudson musical warmth all over the arrangement and Laura Bates’ fiddle playing is quite enjoyable – Rick Danko and John Hartford are smiling down approvals on her work for sure — and not to over look Treasa Levasseur’s accordion that drizzles with flavor.

That Old Ravine,” showcase Jay more seriously. A poignant song that sounds as if it could have been written a hundred years ago in Appalachia. The background vocals are the hidden ingredients in this spicy cake. Jay’s voice has authority and while I’m not certain, this song reminds me of Roger Miller’s brilliant “River In the Rain,” track.

“What A Dream,” a delightful melody played stylistically with many textures. This is one of the more intense avenues Jay explores with lyrics that snap with a fine uplifting voice and confident performance.

“King of the World,” utilizes a clever fiddle intro and outro of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” and Jay has a completely different voice. Despite the John Prine-Randy Newman spirit this song weaves through a completely original approach, and fits comfortably between any classic Prine / Newman song. “King of the World,” with an infectious sorrowful fiddle aching throughout the song has an effective presence that Scarlett Rivera’s violin had on Bob Dylan’s “Desire” album. Emotional with a memorable sad, sympathetic fiddle conclusion. This is excellent songwriting.

“Your Precious War,” echoes again the styling of Sam Leno, Phil Ochs, solo John Sebastian and Arlo Guthrie. An enjoyable presentation with clear acoustics and mandolin. Aymar’s voice is commanding and makes for an ambitious showcase of tunes. Phil Ochs must be smiling somewhere.

“Your Sad and Lonely Heart,” comes at just the right moment in the album’s pacing. A pensive ballad easily enjoyable late at night alone with a glass of whiskey and a cigar, or early in the morning with hot coffee and apple pie. Aymar’s voice is full of genuine entertainment as he conveys musical sincerity in his singing. Listen carefully to this song and Jay is actually giving listeners a wonderful singing lesson. He knows exactly what words require special inflection, where lines need to be stretched, where words need honey and emphasis. He sings gliding along with the acoustic guitars as if they were part of his vocals. It feels as if he puts his arm around your shoulder and pulls you in closer to tell you something confidently. Privately. The song is beautiful and quite brilliant.

This song alone should elevate Jay Aymar to front and center stage where the likes of John Prine, Randy Newman and all the others I tiresomely mentioned stand. He’s that good. I sincerely believe any of these artists’ audiences would welcome Jay Aymar warmly if he opened for any of these artists in concert. He fits perfectly. His storytelling is splendid.

“Three Love Stories,” is storytelling with well-developed characters and this is where Aymar shines finest. Songwriter’s can learn a lesson from Jay’s style – no matter how serious an artist feels they need to be – having a sense of humor is just as an important. Aymar doesn’t sound so much as John Prine as being someone who shares Prine’s incredible talent for a humorous clever twist of phrase and Jay does it seamlessly.

“Tune Out Turn Off Drop By,” suggests an old singer-songwriter I recall — who was quite prolific in the 70’s – Phillip Goodhand-Tait. Goodhand-Tait even had some of his tunes covered by The Who’s Roger Daltry. This song has a powerful driving melody with a strong message threaded throughout in that Goodhand-Tait tradition. Goodhand-Tait was from the school of Elton John when Elton was in his “Tumbleweed Connection” phase and Goodhand-Tait even shared some of Elton’s musicians. But, Goodhand-Tait has that sense of humor Elton never displayed but Jay Aymar does. The fiddle work and mandolin on this track are delightful and worth the price of admission.

“I’ll Leave When I’m Ready To Go,” – the pitch man’s song. I’d bring this one to the attention of a singer who doesn’t write their own songs. This is the one with mojo; the hit potential voodoo. While the majority of the songs on “Overtime” are good this song has that added value. It’s a pleasant tale easily relatable to anyone who listens, adaptable to either male or female vocalist, and has an infectious arrangement.

“Monterey,”  concludes the showcase on a cool note. Acoustic guitar / piano support with a strong commanding voice. An amusing tale. I see Tom Waits seated at the piano, head down-turned, cigarette smoke rising from the side panel, a Hoagy Carmichael single finger pounding out the single notes as Jay sings his tune with a little toothpick sticking out the side of his mouth like Hoagy did. This melody actually is quite Hoagy Carmichael-like in nature — which endears it to me. Any songwriter who can be compared to the likes of Hoagy Carmichael has to be good.

This is the man who wrote “Georgia On My Mind,” after all. Jay would probably also be welcomed into the Hoagy Carmichael school of musical humor – check Carmichael’s lyrically-clever “Hong Kong Blues,” from 1944’s Humphrey Bogart film “To Have and Have Not.” A track even covered by George Harrison.

Always good to end an album on a high note. Jay Aymar doesn’t under-estimate the poignant memorable farewell tune that reminds the listener: there is a wealth of music still to come. I hope so. There is a wealth of styles on this collection. Jay Aymar plays the guitar and of course, sings all songs; David Baxter produced and played guitar, mandolin, harmonium and sang some backup; Laura Bates did all the fine fiddle work; Burke Carroll provided dobro; Lucas Gadke played bass and added vocals; Treasa Levasseur delighted with accordion, piano and some vocals; Kara Manovich added her voice and kick drum and Will Staunten sat in on washboard and triangle.

My thanks to Canadian singer-songwriter Grainne for recommending Jay Aymar to me.  

Jay has two previous albums available: “Passing Through” (2011) & “Halfway Home,” (2009). Jay’s website has concert schedules & booking information:

JAY AYMAR: Entitling his new album, Overtime is fitting, given the work ethic of this Toronto-based country-folk troubadour. Framing Aymar’s songs in empathetic fashion is an A-list of Toronto players, including guitarist/producer DAVID GAVAN BAXTERBURKE CARROLL and TREASA LEVASSEUR. Aymar is something of an unsung hero, one deserving of far more recognition for his eloquent songwriting and entertaining performance style.”
Kerry Doole – Tandem / Exclaim, 2013

“Overtime is a welcome new collection of wit, wisdom and lyrical derring-do, by Jay Aymar,

 as crisply faceted as a favourite short-story collection. It shines!”
Paul Corby, Corby’s Orbit Radio, 2013
Poor old folk music.  The definition is getting blurred beyond distinction these days.  Any kid with an acoustic thinks they are folk, and if you put a banjo up there, and an attempt at an old-time accent, it doesn’t matter that they are just singing pop songs, it gets called folk.  I liked how the Canadian rock writer Nick Jennings summed up Mumford & Sons after the Grammy’s:  Coldplay with mandolins.So, it gives me great pleasure to say this is a folk record.  Aymar is a hard-touring, no frills performer, have acoustic guitar, will come to your town guy.  He’s been here, he’s been there, he’s been everywhere.  In fact, the title track of the disc, Overtime, is his version of This Land Is Your Land, a shaggy dog story of his touring life, starting in Newfoundland and ending in B.C.  He’s played them all.  And of course, that alone inspires a bunch of songs, whether they are reflecting on the state of things he’s witnessed, or stories he’s picked up from the road.  And, being a talker, he gets to sit and chat with folks (as in Folk), and find out what they’re thinking.There’s a mix of classic themes here, from the rural tragedy of That Old Ravine (mom died in the creek), to Three Love Stories, a Prine-esque look at three later-in-life couples who get together for a little mature romance.  In the grandest tradition of folk, there’s political commentary as well. Your Precious War has the reality of life for the soldier when they return home, while King Of The World is sung in the voice of Bush Junior.  Producer David Baxter keeps things simple, with the basic accompaniment letting the lyrics tell the story in each number.  See, that’s folk, in my view, music from the people, to make you dance a bit and make you think too.
Bob Mersereau (Reveiw of Overtime) CBC Radio 1, March 3, 2013
“He frequently gets compared to John Prine or Lyle Lovett for his “homemade” songs, but this critic also hears a little of Leonard Cohen in his soft, low-key delivery… (Halfway Home) A good disc for singers to swipe some new songs from and yet another nice effort from Jay Aymar.”-By Barry Hammond, Penguin Eggs. Summer 
“For a world that is so often disconnected and disaffected, the songs on Jay Aymar’s Halfway Home are the perfect remedy. Understated, unhurried, and powerful:  his songs reveal subtle truths seemingly effortlessly, with a touch of grace. Aymar seems to know how to go to the heart of human experience in a surprising way.  The attentive listener will have the impression of having arrived home —home, that mysterious sense of belonging and calm.” —
Julie MillerCJMQ, Sherbrooke, Quebec.
“Aymar’s storytelling is as easy on the mind as it is on the ears. He counts many veteran industry-insiders as fans. Watching him on a Saturday night, guitar in hands, standing at the mic, upper body tilted 15 degrees to his left as he sings, it was plain to see why he has such a solid following. Jay Aymar has earned his standing as well as his stance.”
Roots Music Canada (Passing Through: Live Concert and CD Review ) – Andy Frank
“Jay has written a true Canadian folk song My Cherry Coloured Rose…and it’s a classic.” Ian Tyson
Halfway Home, the fourth release by Toronto-based singer-songwriter Jay Aymar, is the album that could win him a substantial following for his well-crafted songs about everyday people living everyday lives. Aymar’s songs deal with various states of love, the state of our planet, life on the road, the death of a cherished person and the death of an anonymous homeless person, all with insight and a sure hand at words as well as country-folk melody and arrangement. Aymar’s songs – including one that has been recorded by Ian Tyson – are well worth seeking out. –
Mike Regenstreif – Sing Out Magazine
“Jay Aymar writes people’s lives. There are big stories but it’s the little details he puts in that paint the real picture for us. These people pop right into your head with one listen.”-Bob Mersereau  (Review of Passing Through) CBC Radio 1
My First Big “FIND” of 2010!!   Halfway Home is his best work yet —  Jay’s melodic, story-based songs touch on every emotion; they will remain in your consciousness and your heart.  
Jim MarinoFreewheeling Folk Show, 93.3 CFMU , Hamilton.
“In an age befuddled by media and meaninglessness, Jay Aymar manages to clarify the simple ingredients of a good song: ask the questions that don’t know the answers, remember the feelings that forgot themselves in the moment and sing about the unsung, whether they’re heroic or not. Halfway Home is major. The last two songs are just like Mohammed Ali’s right followed by his left. Only difference is you enjoy it.”
Paul Corby, Corby’s Orbit Radio Show, 88.1 CKLN, Toronto.
 “Halfway Home is a wonderful, low key album of fun uptempo songs and introspective numbers that really pack an emotional punch. Some personal highlights are the gently swinging “Rock On” and “Crow” which is devastating in its unassuming depth.”
Robert Lawson, Sunrise Records Reviewer, Toronto.

“Jay Aymar rocks!”  Shelagh Rogers, CBC

—–

—————–

Yorkton This Week Logo

Lyrics create strong emotions

May 30, 2012

Passing Through
Jay Aymar
9-out-of-10

Canada consistently produces amazing musical story tellers. From Lightfoot, Cohen, and Young to the younger Mangan and Plaskett, there’s something in the fresh water that makes us a nation of talented raconteurs. Jay Aymar has recently been added to my list of favorite Canadian songwriters, and I wish I’d known of him sooner. Passing Through is completely stuffed full with fantastic and thoughtful lines of poetic genius. Aymar has quite the knack for putting words in beautiful succession and pitting fact and fiction.

Aymar has been stepping across this country for many years now, pleasing crowds in concert halls and small town bars alike. Only pure dedication to a craft such as this can garner such honest results.

Passing Through is a steady stream of bluesy and classic country sounding similar to Dylan and The Band. Aymar kills it with his lyrical phrasing and simple melody, the flow allows his lyrics to come through clearly and resonate; especially in the case of “Passing Through”, my favorite track off of the album. A five minute finger picked ballad that’s full like a novel but would fit in a church bulletin. My other favorite part of this record is the amazing fiddle performances throughout the album, ridiculously tasteful and subtle. Very well played.

Passing Through carries the energy of a live performance while keeping tight and crisp, which is not always easy but pulled off flawlessly here. Aymar’s storytelling is forefront here and rightfully so, it is definitely the writing that sets this album above the bar and evokes more emotion than your average country record.

If you’d like to experience Jay’s incredible storytelling first hand, he is appearing live at the 5th Avenue Cup and Saucer on Thursday, June 14th. Contact them for more information.

—SEAN CRAIB-PETKAU

————–

March 9, 2012

Jay Aymar. Folksy fun @ The Pearl 1

Review by Danny Gaisin

Since the collapse of the White Oaks Folk Club; our opportunities for enjoying this creative genre have all but ended. Last night, Hamilton’s Pearl presented an evening with Jay Aymar, and it was fun!  This young man has a talent for creating songs that epitomizes Randy Bachman’s credo about ‘telling a story

He manages to capture the very essence of his subject matter, whether it is his parents; love lives—past & present; or the socio-political arena of today. In one example, his recollection about an avuncular expedition to pick apples at the North Channel evoked even the endemic bucolic & verdant aroma.

Aymar utilizes intricate acoustic chording and in keeping with tradition, his lyrics are so catchy that audiences can soon join in chorus repetitions.

In some cases; they are even invited to do so. ‘His “I know” refrain was but one example that had this writer feeling like a vocal ‘sideman’. My reaction to his introductory comments, then witnessing the sincerity in which they become the actual libretto was the same as my experience with some of the compositions of Jimmy Buffett! Aymar’s rhyming equals that of Paul Simon.

Visually, he is comfortable with his audience and this reflects in the same sparkle that his face exhibits as he performs. The eyes twinkle and except when singing a dramatic bit, he smiles intimately across the footlights. He is ‘at one’ with his listeners. His creative piece about Don Cherry’s human side shows the dichotomy of personal as opposed to the TV brutish side of Hockey Night’s icon. One can see why Aymar is so favored by Ian Tyson and other personalities of the Canadian Folk world.

The only disappointment of the evening: the numerical paucity of the audience. Hamilton’s PEARL is a cultural gem and reflects the personal interest of producers—Barb & Gary who put so much of themselves into what intellectually matters in the city. The place is intimate; admission very reasonable, and their on-stage guests …eclectic. Something for everyone so it’s worth checking out.

————-

Sunrise Records Review of Passing Through – January 23, 2011. Here’s the latest from thoughtful local singer songwriter Jay Aymar where he really expands the reach found on his previous disc”HALFWAY HOME” (Newsletter #40). He doesn’t waste any time getting down to business either.  ”Seriously Delirious” is the albums opening declaration tackling the current music scene (“the kids don’t give a shit”) and his personal mission statement (“but a song is still a song when it kicks ya where it counts”). But Aymar really knocks one out of the park with “Could It Be”, not only essaying the changes a hard man goes through in the midst of love but giving a fantastic, unrestrained vocal performance that is possibly his best on record so far.On “Garbo And Hepburn” he uses the John Prine technique of using vintage movie stars to represent the withering decay of life itself. Check this out – you’ll be glad you did. Reviewer – Robert Lawson

 —–

Songwriter’s career blooms after a tribute to Rose

Tom Murray, Freelance

Published: Friday, July 02

CONCERT PREVIEW

JAY AYMAR

When/Where: Tonight at the Early Stage Saloon, 4911 52nd Ave., in Stony Plain; Saturday at Glenora Bistro, 10139 124th St., Edmonton

  $10 for the Glenora Bistro, available at the door

– – –

For Jay Aymar, music was always something to be pursued as a sideline to his job as a wine sales rep in Ontario.

Even as far back as 1993, when he won a songwriting contest in his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie and parlayed it into regional folk festival gigs, he was careful to keep a foot in the 9-to-5 world.

He recorded three albums’ worth of original material, honing his confessional folk style and gigging when he could. This all changed a few years back when he wrote a song about hockey icon Don Cherry and his reaction to the passing of his wife Rose. Aymar sent a rough copy along for Cherry’s approval, and the Hockey Night in Canada announcer gave him the thumbs-up.

“I also happened to be reading a Globe & Mail article about Ian Tyson,” Aymar recounts. “Something about him caught my attention, so I wrote Ian a short letter and enclosed a homemade CD that included the song I had written for Don, My Cherry Coloured Rose.”

Aymar was surprised when Tyson contacted him to thank him for the letter, but especially so when the Alberta folk legend told him that he would be recording My Cherry Coloured Rose on his next album, Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Songs. Released in 2008, the album was a bit of a comeback for Tyson, who was struggling with possible career-ending problems with his throat.

With Tyson now singing some of the saddest songs of his career in a hoarse, affecting voice, My Cherry Coloured Rose was well-situated to gain national attention for Aymar.

It was the kind of long-shot situation that infuriates career songwriters — a Hollywood version of how songs are placed, the equivalent of being discovered in a soda shop. Aymar, who knows how lucky he was, decided to chuck his day job and see how far he could take this unexpected boost to his career.

“I guess you could say that I was staring down the mid-life crisis,” chuckles Aymar, who is 42. “I’m halfway to meeting my maker, or Halfway Home, as my latest album is called. I figured that since I’m not married, and I have no kids, why not go out and do it?”

So he has, cramming innumerable bar and coffee house gigs into a four-month stretch of touring since the release of Halfway Home, which includes his own version of My Cherry Coloured Rose. Life on the road with only a guitar and laptop for companionship might not be as comfortable as pulling down a steady paycheque for some, but Aymar is enjoying his dalliance with the music industry.

“It’s all tied up in ego and insecurity, isn’t it?” he muses.

“I was told that I’m actually a comedian pretending to be a songwriter, which might very well be true. I’m a bit of a storyteller at heart, and I really like performing as much as I like writing.”

——————

Jay Aymar,
Passing Through
(independent, 2011)

Review by: Jerome Clarke – Rambles Magazine


Toronto singer-songwriter Jay Aymar received a serious career boost when Ian Tyson covered his composition “My Cherry Colored Rose,” an astonishing song whose like one rarely encounters, on Yellowhead to Yellowstone (which I reviewed here on 28 March 2009). Many of us heard of Aymar for the first time then, though he had cut two mostly ignored albums previously. Aymar’s terrific reading of the song, significantly different from Tyson’s, showed up later on his third, Halfway Home (see my review of 24 April 2010).

Here’s the significance of the preceding paragraph: Wherever fortune takes him, Aymar may have already written his career-defining song. It may not be possible to open a discussion of Aymar’s music without first dragging in Tyson and “Rose” (about the grief of the real-life Don Cherry, Canada’s well-known, tough-talking hockey announcer, from the death of his wife Rose). So let us state up front that nothing on Passing Through, which is a good album overall, matches That Song. Aymar may be like the late Steve Goodman, who wrote a number of decent songs but none so remembered as “City of New Orleans.” On the other hand, most singer-songwriters manage not to be remembered for anything in particular.

Somewhere in the liner notes Aymar calls this a “song cycle,” which typically means a bunch of songs linked by a theme, specific or broad. To my hearing, of Passing‘s 10 cuts, the first five — and possibly the next two — offer various perspectives on fame, celebrity and the artist/performer’s quest for same. The title song, in my judgment the album’s one near-masterpiece, contemplates how entertainment figures become gods, and how our fear of death drives this particular variety of spiritual hallucination. A few other songs by other writers take up comparable subjects, but “Passing Through” is as brilliantly conceived and executed as any of them.

We ought to take note, too, of Aymar’s natural musicality, not so common among his singing, songwriting contemporaries who in another time would have been poets and novelists. His melodies flow, and he is a pure sort of singer with a fluid, expressive voice that conveys wry humor on the lighter songs, a convincing compassion on the darker ones. As nearly every writer on Aymar remarks — for the right reasons: it’s true, and it’s central to his art — he has an approachable, everyman persona. Listening to him is such a comfortable experience that sometimes you have to hear a song more than once to grasp that he’s raising some not-so-comfortable issues.

Since Aymar has been spending time in Nashville, it isn’t surprising that the production, albeit not the lyric content of most songs, is country-inflected. There are two genuine country pieces, one of them the impressive “Worthless String of Pearls” (one can imagine Don Williams recording it when in his prime) and the other a not-so-successful “The Cowboy I Know.” The latter, the disc’s one misfire, recycles every cliche without which one could not enter or leave a recording studio as Nashville’s “outlaw” fad ran its course in the 1970s. “Outlaw” even shows up in a line, and it sounds no better — actually, worse — than it did when voiced by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and David Allan Coe in their lesser moments. Still, as is ordinarily the case with Aymar’s material, the melody is strong and attention-catching. Too bad it doesn’t serve sturdier lyrics which Aymar could, moreover, have sung with more authority than he does these.

Misstep or two notwithstanding, Aymar is one of the good guys, possessed of a distinctive, charming musical personality and an easy-going intelligence. There may or may not be another career-defining song in him, but regardless, the ones he’s writing are worth hearing.

—————-

Jay Aymar

Passing Through

REVIEWS breadcrumbsplit FOLK & COUNTRY breadcrumbsplit MAR 15 2011

Jay Aymar - Passing Through

By Kerry DooleGiven the glut of urban hipsters doing roots music, it’s heartening to see that there are still populist hardcore Canadian troubadours making the rounds. To the likes of Tim Hus, Jack Marks and Scotty Campbell, you can add Sault St. Marie-based Jay Aymar. He won fans with last album Halfway Home and returns here with an even stronger effort. Aymar often performs solo, but there’s a full band sound on this record. Fiddle and pedal steel are put to good use on country/folk ballad “Garbo and Hepburn,” while the vocal harmonies of Angela Hilts and Jadea Kelly add depth to some tracks. A lovely duet with Kelly on “Worthless String of Pearls” is an album highlight. The title track has a gentler, sparser feel, showing Aymar can sing sensitively when needed. There’s a little bravado in “Hold On Nashville,” with Aymar threatening to conquer Music City. He may, in fact, be just a little too real for Nashville, but we’ll gladly keep embracing him.
(Independent)

—————–

SATURDAY, MARCH 19, 2011

MUSIC REVIEW: JAY AYMAR – PASSING THROUGH –

BY: BOB MERSEREAU

JAY AYMAR – PASSING THROUGH

I don’t know if Jay Aymar knows where he’s from anymore.  While Toronto may be a home base, most of his work and time is on the road, and he’s getting to know the country really well.  He’s part of a solid new folk scene that’s crisscrossing the country, trading in a little blues or roots, whatever will get them on the bill of whatever club, festival or house concert is happening.  As much as these genres are interchangeable now, what’s remained true is the idea of the songwriter picking up bits and pieces of people’s lives, and passing them on like seeds, wherever they land next.

I think I’ll repeat that, because I like the sound of it:  Jay Aymar writes people’s lives.  You get the actress who wanted to play the big-time roles, but had to settle for bit parts.  There’s the guy who just wants to find a normal girl.  Or the white guy who’s learned a lot more than most about First Nations people in the country by hanging out and being a friend.  There are big stories, but it’s the little details he puts in that paint the real picture for us, like the bus passenger who tells us, “As the weight of my wallet goes, I’m a Greyhound kind of guy.”  Then there’s “the beautiful girl in vintage clothes”.  These people pop right into your head with one listen.

Aymar’s folk is the kind with country leanings, and features strong fiddle, mandolin and ensemble playing.  Aymer’s part of a larger scene of like-minded folk folk, such as David Gavin Baxter, Tim Des Islets (who handles rhythm guitar on all tracks here) and young Jadea Kelly, an exceptional singer who shows up for an excellent old-timey duet on “Worthless String Of Pearls”.  There’s honesty and raw talent flowing through all these people, so go out and see them next time they’re in town.  Especially Jay Aymar, since he’s probably driving into yours right now.

————
ROOTS MUSIC CANADA REVIEW

Jay Aymar – Passing Through

January 17, 2011 Author: Andy Frank

It starts with the voice. It always does. That’s the curse/blessing of the singer-songwriter: the voice has to have a quality that quickly captures your love, earns your trust, and opens your mind enough to absorb the more complex and subtle gifts borne in the artist’s ditties. Now the voice doesn’t need to be as polished and smooth as Jay Aymar’s country-tinged tenor is in order for it to be effective – and of course what constitutes a “good voice” is subjective – but it sure can’t hurt. Hear for yourselves, make your own comparisons.

Aymar’s new CD is titled Passing Through, named after a song in which Jesus and Elvis share equal billing, a song that touches on mortality, commercialism, creativity and love.  In a dialogue with a diner waitress, she says: ”I’m not looking for a saviour, just something that feels true, a tiny piece of heaven while I’m only passing through” to which Aymar’s narrator eventually replies,  ”I’ve been hooked on inspiration, so long it’s been abused, I can never be a saviour babe, I hardly own my truth”.

Also among Passing Through’s themes are personal ambition, hope, sacrifice, reconciliation, broken-down cowboys and farmers. Aymar’s storytelling is as easy on the mind as it is on the ears, for he is an entertainer first, and has cut his teeth at more than his share of loud bars like Toronto’s Dora Keogh, where a group of us recently enjoyed his three-set marathon.

Playing with Anna Atkinson (on violin and accordion, rarely at the same time), and Tim Des Islets on electric guitar – both of whom were part of his CD lineup – Aymar plowed through materials from Passing Through, his previous release Halfway Home, and a delightful bunch of Johnny Cash covers. The band followed wherever they were led, playfully and skillfully adding solos and touches to whatever was thrown their way. Missing from the Dora Keogh set, however, were the delightfully unique tones of Jadea Kelly, a guest vocalist Aymar has wisely employed on both of his recent recordings. Kelly has that “who’s that?” quality to her voice and style, and while her duet with Aymar is a welcome ear-perker, to Aymar and co-producer Chris Hess’s credit, she is used in just the right measure in Passing Through.

photo credit: Augustus Fairfax

He counts Ian Tyson (who covered Aymar’s tribute to Don Cherry on Yellowhead to Yellowstone), Shelagh Rogers and many veteran industry-insiders as fans. Watching him at the local pub on a Saturday night, guitar in hands, standing at the mic, upper body tilted 15 degrees to his left as he sings,  it was plain to see why he has such a solid following. Jay Aymar has earned his standing as well as his stance.

——————–

Jay Aymar,
Halfway Home
(independent, 2010)

REVIEW BY: JEROME CLARKE – RAMBLES MAGAZINE
These days, Ian Tyson seldom covers anybody else’s songs. So, when I saw “My Cherry Colored Rose” listed on Tyson’s most recent album (Yellowhead to Yellowstone, which I reviewed here on 28 March 2009), I was surprised to see it credited to somebody named Jay Aymar. I figured that it must be an exceptional piece of work. It is. Tyson rightly calls it a “true Canadian folk song.” A fact-based story, it assumes the voice of a real individual — tough-talking Canadian hockey announcer Don Cherry — and imagines how he found a way to go on living after his wife, to whom he had been devoted for many years, died of cancer in 1997.

It’s pretty close to a perfect song, but I couldn’t imagine how Aymar could have written it without Cherry’s permission. Reading the fine print on the cover ofHalfway Home, I note Aymar’s bow to Cherry for “allowing me to record something so personal to you.” “Rose” appears on this CD in a different arrangement from Tyson’s, and a powerful one.

Ontario-based singer-songwriter Aymar sounds something like an amalgamation of Tom Rush, Jesse Winchester and Guy Clark. “This Town Ain’t Big Enough” has the Caribbean lilt of Winchester’s “I’m Gonna Miss You, Girl,” for example, and “All I Know” is broadly reminiscent of his “Defying Gravity.” The arrangements have the exquisite blend of stark simplicity and sly sophistication that one associates with the above-named masters.

Still, Aymar manages to be more than the sum of his influences. An appealing musical personality emerges in these 10 cuts. He seems, well, like a nice guy you’d like to know, a wry observer and a modest man whose songs have a charmingly conversational quality. That conversation, I might add, is more likely to be conducted over a cup of coffee than a bottle of beer — which is to say this definitely isn’t country music — but beneath that calm, pleasant voice is the piercing, unsentimental intelligence of a keen social critic. “Easy Street” and “Carry Me Back Home” are a whole lot less easy-going than you’d think if you aren’t listening closely. “Crow” — which Tyson ought to consider recording if he’s up to covering another Aymar composition — is downright harrowing.

If other Aymar songs celebrate life’s uncomplicated pleasures, they do it without sap. Halfway Home, an understatedly lovely album, is the sort of art that speaks in measured tones, too assured to require more than a whisper. As you lean forward to hear it, it just kind sneaks up and grabs you. That’s a whole lot harder to do than you’d think.

—————–

CATEGORIES: ARTS

The end of love and a famous voice

With his heart and his vocal chords shredded, Ian Tyson bares his soul on a brave new CD

by Brian D. Johnson on Monday, November 24, 2008 9:00am – 7 Comments

The end of love and a famous voice

Ian Tyson is on the phone, and his voice sounds as ragged as a tumbleweed rattling over a dusty plain. It’s 8 a.m. in High River, Alta., and a fierce gale is whipping across Tyson’s ranch. “The wind is blowing like there’s no tomorrow,” he says. “It’s going to be a hundred clicks today. You gotta tie things down. When I first came here they had these asphalt shingles on the barns, and when a storm took them off you’d see what looked like a huge, immeasurable flock of vultures in the sky.” Tyson, the cowboy poet reaching for an early morning metaphor, knows a thing or two about wind. His classic ballad, Four Strong Winds—recorded with Ian & Sylvia and adopted by Neil Young—was voted the best Canadian song of all time by CBC Radio three years ago.

But one of the most beautiful voices ever to sing of women and horses and heartbreak is now broken. Its smooth, clear depths are drained and its timbre is cracked like a dry riverbed. The damage was done two years ago at the Havelock Jamboree, a country music festival in Ontario. “The sound was set up for Nashville rock ’n’ roll, all heavy bass,” Tyson explains. “I stupidly tried to outmuscle the sound with my voice, which I’d gotten away with all those years. When I got offstage, I knew I’d done something strange and terrible. Then it was too late.” His voice partially recovered, but last year he caught a nasty virus on a flight from Denver and it hasn’t been the same since. “There’s a lot of scarring down there,” he says.

That, however, didn’t stop Tyson from recording a new album with what was left of his vocal cords. Last week, the singer-songwriter, who turned 75 this year, released Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Songs, his 14th album. Most of the songs are sad ballads—made even sadder by a voice that’s painfully torn and frayed. The difference in Tyson’s singing is so radical that it amounts to a whole new style: and his Edmonton-based label, Stony Plains Records, is promoting his “dramatically ‘new’ voice” as a selling point. It’s a half-talking delivery that sounds not unlike Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. “I didn’t realize I was doing it,” says Tyson, “but when I listened to the album, I heard a lot of Knopfler. And he’s a huge influence, especially on the songwriting.”

Though the bass has dropped out of Tyson’s voice, he has discovered some strange new frontiers in the upper shallows that give it a sense of fragility. “The bottom end is gone completely,” he says, “but the top end seems to be lengthening. There’s all sorts of funny avenues you can take in the upper register. I don’t know what’s going on.”

Tyson says he was reluctant to record at first. But Alberta country singer Corb Lund, a close friend, urged him to forge ahead, saying, “I like your voice better the way it is now.” Lund connected him with his Nashville producer, Harry Stinson, who has worked with everyone from George Jones to Steve Earle. Tyson laid down most of the album’s tracks in Nashville in just four days, for a fraction of what he’d spent in Toronto on his previous record, Songs From the Gravel Road, which bombed. This album is attracting a lot of curiosity and some favourable reviews.

Most of the songs are tender laments for a lost love or a vanished frontier. Some verge on the maudlin, but Tyson is not content to sit back in the saddle of country and western cliché—who else would rhyme “some damn bureaucrat” with “abrogate a cowboy hat”? The title tune, Yellowhead to Yellowstone, is sung from the viewpoint of a pack of wolves transplanted from the Canadian Rockies to Wyoming—the kind of epic narrative Gordon Lightfoot used to write. And My Cherry Coloured Rose, about Don Cherry mourning his wife, was sent to him on a homemade CD by Toronto songwriter Jay Aymar.

The breakup ballads on the new album were inspired by “a deep, serious love affair that went south,” says Tyson. “It’s been a tough couple of years.” But he’s not referring to his divorce from his second wife, which finally came through last spring. “The divorce songs were on the previous album.”

Living alone on his ranch, Tyson still works on a horse most days. And next month he’s off to Oklahoma to ride in a major cutting horse championship. He will continue to tour with the “new” voice, and inevitably there are requests for Four Strong Winds. “I don’t like doing it all the time,” he says. “I wrote that thing in 20 minutes and I was just a kid. It’s like someone else wrote it.” Now it will sound like someone else is singing it.

———————

http://foreveryoungnews.com/posts/705-tyson-records-cherry-tribute

—–

Penguin Eggs – Review of Halfway Home by Barry Hammond

Jay Aymar – Halfway Home (Independent) Summer 2010

Jay Aymar first came to the public’s attention in 1993 when he answered a CBC Radio casting call for new artists across Ontario. His songs were selected for a five-song demo. Since then he’s written and recorded four more albums and performed live at venues across the country. Ian Tyson recorded his song from this disc, My Cherry Coloured Rose, about hockey broadcasting icon Don Cherry’s late wife on his disc Yellowstone and Other Love Stories.
He frequently gets compared to John Prine or Lyle Lovett for his “homemade” songs, but this critic also hears a little of Leonard Cohen in his soft, low-key delivery. The songs on this disc cover a wide range, from light-hearted fare like Apple Pickin’ to more serious subjects like Darwin and religion in All I Know, dead hobos and street people in Crow, dead soldiers and rooming houses on Carry Me Back Home and survival of the fittest on Easy Street.
Chris Hess does a fine production and engineering job, keeping things simple and transparent to show off the songs in their best light without burying them under ostentatious decoration. There are very attractive backing harmonies on some of these numbers, too, especially those provided by Jadea Kelly. A good disc for singers to swipe some new songs from and yet another nice effort from Jay Aymar.
– By Barry Hammond, Penguin Eggs. Summer 2010
—-

SING OUT MAGAZINE – WINTER EDITION 2011 – REVIEW OF HALFWAY HOME by Mike Regenstreif Jay Aymar, Halfway Home (Jay Aymar 004)

Haflway Home, the fourth release by Toronto-based singer-songwriter Jay Aymar, is the album that could win him a substantial following for his well-crafted songs about everyday people living everyday lives. Aymar’s songs deal with various states of love, the state of our planet, life on the road, the death of a cherished person and the death of an anonymous homeless person, all with insight and a sure hand at words as well as country-folk melody and arrangement. Aymar’s songs – including one that has been recorded by Ian Tyson – are well worth seeking out. – Mike Regenstreif – Sing Out Magazine
My First Big “FIND” of 2010!!   Halfway Home is his best work yet —  Jay’s melodic, story-based songs touch on every emotion; they will remain in your consciousness and your heart.  — Jim MarinoFreewheeling Folk Show, 93.3 CFMU , Hamilton.

“In an age befuddled by media and meaninglessness, Jay Aymar manages to clarify the simple ingredients of a good song: ask the questions that don’t know the answers, remember the feelings that forgot themselves in the moment and sing about the unsung, whether they’re heroic or not. Halfway Home is major. The last two songs are just like Mohammed Ali’s right followed by his left. Only difference is you enjoy it.” — Paul Corby, Corby’s Orbit Radio Show, 88.1 CKLN, Toronto.
 “Halfway Home is a wonderful, low key album of fun uptempo songs and introspective numbers that really pack an emotional punch. Some personal highlights are the gently swinging “Rock On” and “Crow” which is devastating in its unassuming depth.” — Robert Lawson, Sunrise Records Reviewer, Toronto.
 
“For a world that is so often disconnected and disaffected, the songs on Jay Aymar’s Halfway Home are the perfect remedy. Understated, unhurried, and powerful:  his songs reveal subtle truths seemingly effortlessly, with a touch of grace. Aymar seems to know how to go to the heart of human experience in a surprising way.  The attentive listener will have the impression of having arrived home —home, that mysterious sense of belonging and calm.” —
Julie MillerCJMQ, Sherbrooke, Quebec.

“Jay Aymar writes people’s lives. There are big stories but it’s the little details he puts in that paint the real picture for us. These people pop right into your head with one listen.”-Bob Mersereau (2011 Review of Passing Through) CBC Radio 1

“Aymar’s storytelling is as easy on the mind as it is on the ears. He counts many veteran industry-insiders as fans. Watching him on a Saturday night, guitar in hands, standing at the mic, upper body tilted 15 degrees to his left as he sings, it was plain to see why he has such a solid following. Jay Aymar has earned his standing as well as his stance.”

-Roots Music Canada (Passing Through: Live Concert and CD Review – 2011) – Andy Frank

“Halfway Home, the fourth release by Toronto-based singer-songwriter Jay Aymar, is the album that could win him a substantial following for his well-crafted songs about everyday people living everyday lives. Aymar’s song – including one which has been recorded by Ian Tyson – are well worth seeking out.”

-Mike Regenstreif, (2010) Sing Out Magazine

“He frequently gets compared to John Prine or Lyle Lovett for his “homemade” songs, but this critic also hears a little of Leonard Cohen in his soft, low-key delivery… (Halfway Home) A good disc for singers to swipe some new songs from and yet another nice effort from Jay Aymar.”

-By Barry Hammond, Penguin Eggs. Summer 2010
“Jay has written a true Canadian folk song My Cherry Coloured Rose…and it’s a classic.” Ian Tyson

“Jay Aymar rocks!” Shelagh Rogers, CBC

Sunrise Records Review of Passing Through – January 23, 2011. Here’s the latest from thoughtful local singer songwriter Jay Aymar where he really expands the reach found on his previous disc”HALFWAY HOME” (Newsletter #40). He doesn’t waste any time getting down to business either.  ”Seriously Delirious” is the albums opening declaration tackling the current music scene (“the kids don’t give a shit”) and his personal mission statement (“but a song is still a song when it kicks ya where it counts”). But Aymar really knocks one out of the park with “Could It Be”, not only essaying the changes a hard man goes through in the midst of love but giving a fantastic, unrestrained vocal performance that is possibly his best on record so far.On “Garbo And Hepburn” he uses the John Prine technique of using vintage movie stars to represent the withering decay of life itself. Check this out – you’ll be glad you did. Reviewer – Robert Lawson

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s