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CD Review: Jory Nash – New Blue Day

‘I am the orator and I’m a-looking for a fire to kindle…’

I enjoy the singer-songwriter genre a lot, but its pitfall – the thing that can drive me ‘round the bend – is that it can all start sounding the same after awhile.  Thank goodness Jory Nash doesn’t fit this stereotype.  On his sixth CD New Blue Day (2009) he has managed, once again, to surprise and delight.

I have conew_blue_dayme to expect Jory’s trademark, oblique lyrical style and it is most evident on tracks like “Don’t Be Frustrated” and “Homily”.  The beauty of these songs is that they’re full of treasures that can only be uncovered after repeated listens and a familiarity that comes with time.  Then he goes and writes a song like “You Figured It Out” and its straightforward lyrics unexpectedly cut right to the heart of the matter.

I like the fact that Jory writes in a variety of musical styles.  “Atlas Takes a Ride” is a bluesy number that features an ace guitar solo from Rick Fines. There is also a pseudo-historical ballad with Christine Bougie on lap steel (“Charlie”), a nod to Motown with some beautiful harmonies provided by Dala (“Soul Kid”), and a simple, John Prine inspired folk tune (“The Getaway”).   Though these genres are familiar, Jory’s inventive melodies make the songs unmistakably his own.

There are three tracks on New Blue Day that stand out the most for me.  These are the songs that grabbed me by the heart, kicked me in the gut and forced me to PAY ATTENTION!  “God Don’t Know Me Anymore” was written in just about twenty minutes and makes me wonder how such a gem could be created in such a short space of time.

My favourite, “A Kiss for the Great Unknown”, comes about halfway through the album.  Jory has never written anything quite like this before; I think of it more as a soundscape than a song.  Kurt Swinghammer plays a great, buzzy electric guitar solo and provides the languid underwater tones of an omnichord, too.  Then there’s the mesmerizing chorus sung in octaves that just lifts my soul.  There is a reason why this song has the highest ‘play count’ on my iTunes compared to the rest of the record.

Finally, there’s “Elegy (How Will I?)” which was written for his father who has Alzheimer’s disease.  I can barely think about this song, let alone listen to it, without welling up with tears.  It isn’t saccharine, nor self-indulgent; it is just a simple lament.   As his voice gets raspier than normal on the higher notes, you can’t help but feel Jory’s heart breaking.  The suspended, unresolved notes at the end are the perfect ending for this song and the entire album.

This CD has a lot going for it: Jory’s smooth vocals, a great cast of musicians, and finely crafted songs.  With a little more edge in the production and the layers that could add to the overall sound, Nash could take his art to the next level.  And that’s sayin’ somethin’!

4 guitar picks out of 5

Rachel Barreca is a blogger, broadcaster, stage manager, house concert and OCFF showcase host, folk festival volunteer and passionate supporter of the Ontario folk scene.

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3 comments

  1. avatar
    Jim Ansell 2 January, 2010 at 14:43

    This recording is indeed a gem. Some of the songs feel like I’ve been listening to them for years, they’re so tuneful and catchy (ie; “God Don’t Know…”). And repeated listenings are the only way to get inside others due to their depth and lyrical content.

    Terrific review. You’ve said almost everything I feel about this great CD. (I have to mention Jason Fowler’s fantastic work though…)

    Jory Nash makes beautiful records!!! A true craftsman…

  2. avatar
    moxywoman 3 January, 2010 at 03:08

    Glad you mentioned Jason’s guitar work. If I had the space I would have mentioned him as well as Lori Cullen’s silky background vocal work, Maury Lafoy on bass, Michael Johnston on keyboards and, and, and…

    “Great cast of musicians” had to suffice instead. 🙂

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. avatar
    Scott Merrifield 4 January, 2010 at 10:00

    Good review. Great CD! I agree with your top three picks and I will add a fourth. “Charlie” is a great outlaw cowboy song which Jory says is inspired by the work of Calexico. To me it is reminiscent of Marty Robins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. CBC Radio Two has played it a lot.
    Jory did a great solo house concert here in Sudbury as part of the release touring.

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