Monday, 29 April 2013

Jay Leighton - Hours Strata

In the year of yet another extensive visit by the Boss, his influence continues to embed itself in guitar based music right across the spectrum. On the back of Eric Church’s ‘Springsteen’, Clubhouse Records Nebraska Sessions and even a folk cover of ‘Dancing in the Dark’ by Ruth Moody, Jay Leighton name checks New Jersey’s finest in the stand out track from his exceptionally well put together debut album.

True, this record gets off to a cracking start with the classic, optimistic and upbeat number ‘Wish I Was Springsteen’ but while this fabulous song sets such a high standard, the rest of HOURS doesn’t disappoint. In this release that sees Jay rejuvenate his passion for music, the singer-songwriter/guitarist from Bradford draws on all his influences to hone in a sound that endorses factions of indie pop rock as well as tipping its hat to pioneers of the alt-country/Americana movement. In fact the Americana UK website promoted ‘Don’t Look Back’ as the headline track on its monthly promotional CD.

All ten tracks on this album have an ingrained substance that encourages you to keep the repeat button on as Jay effortlessly switches from swirling guitar anthems to atmospheric ballads which you could envisage captivating audiences in much larger venues than he is currently frequenting. ‘Cause and Consequence’ with its additional keyboard input fits the model of the latter while ‘The Devil and I’ rattles along at a rhythmic pace with an incredibly catchy chorus.

In his website bio, Jay lists among his influences Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Nick Drake but constant listening to this fairly compact album continually draws up comparisons with the mid 2000’s sound of Keane and Editors. The infectious harmonies are very reminiscent of the former’s debut release while the guitar work has all the hallmark of the latter. Obviously there is going to be a little Manic Street Preachers influence as their producer Greg Haver took over the steering helm and it is to his credit that such a big production sound emerged from what started out as just Jay and his acoustic guitar. The album moves to its finishing line in a more reflective mood exchanging bouts of melancholy with the positive vibes of legacy, especially in ‘Pictures and Memories’ and ‘Painting Flowers’ which brings the proceedings to a suitable conclusion. However by leaving the repeat button on you soon return to the desire of being ‘Springsteen or James Dean’.

This album has widespread appeal that can unite indie/pop/rock fans as well as engaging those looking for a little left field alt-country rock. Jay perfectly combines his powerful vocals with a rousing but not overtly thrashing guitar sound and you do wonder where this album could have ended up with a little pedal steel added by some further Americana influence. However the knockout melodies give this album the necessary leverage to ensure a highly enjoyable listening experience and give the impetus for Jay Leighton to create more outstanding music in the future.

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