A Review of the Jay Linden CD

by Jay Linden

Copyright 2006

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 8/06
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Change is happening in the folk music field. What Dylan wrote, "...the first one now will later be last..." is coming to fruition. How else can the likes of Diana Jones, Zoe Mulford, Jamie Byrd, Danny Schmidt, Pat Wictor and now Jay Linden, all relative unknowns, be releasing CDs that will appear on the critics' lists of the Top CDs of 2006?

It's not like these individuals were born yesterday or are just out of their teens. No, they have paid their many dues and yet remain vastly underpublicized. But still, the front row of the folk music world is beginning to get crowded as these 'newbies' are now elbowing Dar Williams, Richard Schindell, Ellis Paul, John McCutcheon, Eliza Gilkyson and the like for air time.

In Jay Linden's case, his obscurity can easily be attributed to this being his very first release. In his fifties, he's been playing music for some time, particularly in Canada, and apparently awaiting just the right moment to deliver his debut release. Do not take it out on him, but his deliberateness has shortchanged us because, yes, "Satchel" is that good.

His voice is strong and clear with a slight touch of twang--John Gorka with Townes Van Zandt flavoring. His writing flows between the relatively guileless and the delicately obscure. The instrumentation here is spare, but primarily offers guitar, with mandolin, fiddle and dobro augmentation.

From the opening and closing cuts, "Traverse County" and "Upon The Winter's Morning," the listener will immediately pick up strains of Townes Van Zandt's "Rex's Blues" and also "Brother Flower." In fact, the ghost of Van Zandt hovers eeriely throughtout this CD. Some may say there's been a touch of reincarnation bewitchery at work.

Linden writes of relationships, of the inner thoughts and feelings, as well as their outward expressions, and of the infinite and kaleidoscopic variety of nature.

He does so in the melodious, with the learned, sagacious eye of experience and the talent that makes the listener want to delve deeper and hear more.

A prime example of his songwriting is the opening verse of "Riding On The North Wind," the 13th song:

"Oh the night was cold and cloudy, the rain blew in my eyes
Thunder broke the silence and the lightning lit the skies
From the ground to the horizon there was nothing there at all
Up above the heavens clashed like the sky was gonna fall
As I looked for cover I watched a spark flash by
I thought I saw an angel in the corner of the sky
Riding on the north wind..."

On "Something Better To Believe (Icarus' Fall)," cut 14, Linden's writes of the clarion call of freedom clashing with the resulting unfamiliarity:

"The closer that you come to feeling that you're home
The harder it becomes to find you doorstep
Back when I was young, I set out on my own
Walked the path 'til I could take no more steps

Young and full of dreams - hopes and plans and schemes
Crossing all the streams to reach the mountain
Westward to the sea, northbound to the sky
I could fly - soaring smooth, soaring high
As I looked for something better to believe..."

These are indicative of the motherlode of music here--songs as impressive as these finishing out the release!

Jay Linden doesn't offer a 'money back if not satisfied' guarantee for his CD, but he easily could and have no qualms about ever finding a return in his mailbox. This is a very impressive CD that should quickly and deservedly go to the top of the folk music charts in both here and Canada.

Track List: All songs written by Jay Linden, except as noted.

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