Jay Aymar – Passing Through
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.
Jay Aymar’s no rookie; he’s in his early forties, livin’ the dream from couch to futon, motel to hotel, town to city, and determined as hell to make this work. 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.