Jay & The Cooks
Dried Up Dreams
Juste Une Trace
Rich and Deep Americana; from France via Louisiana, Chicago, Austin and Even New York City.
Well, this is an odd one singer, songwriter and guitarist Jay Ryan hails from Chicago and that’s where and when he discovered the delights of ‘music’ which in turn led him to Austin and NYC where he rode the coattails of first the Blues, then Punk and eventually tired of his humdrum life; sold a bass guitar and took a one way trip to France where he became a cook before eventually forming a band as a sideline then co-founding the record shop and label Cinq Planetes.
Four albums later we arrive at DRIED UP DREAMS; not exactly a (dreaded) ‘Concept Album’ but songs that he’s put together on the theme of being an ‘immigrant’ which he himself is/was.
Not knowing what to expect; opening track, the story of an African American construction worker that Ryan knew in the 70’s; Alton McCarver hit me like a first round sucker punch to the cut ….. sounding like a seedy mix of Tom Waits, David Olney or our very own Wily Bo Walker fronting Wilco featuring Stephane Grappelli on violin!
Man it’s as heady as it is deep …. and if you get past it (and I urge you too!) you are in for a veritable treat.
In many ways and this shouldn’t come as a surprise; but it did …. Jay Ryan somehow manages to combine all of his musical influences (and then some!) across these 10 songs; and the outcome is actually as fantastic as it is fascinating.
The Olney influence is front and centre on the ‘noir tale’ of guys sitting around in a bar; putting the world to rights; Chew The Cud; to a snarly punk/Blues grind Ryan confesses
“Some like the Beatles
I like the Stones“
and that’s pretty much all you need to know about the man …. he’s an outsider; and cool with it.
A lot of Americana is themed around being ‘a strange man in a strange town’ here Jay and The Cooks at the extra jeopardy of being in a strange country too; which makes finding love all the harder than it normally should; and his exquisite writing in the feisty Dried Up Heart and its polar opposite Empty Glass of Love sum up those torrid feelings better than many of his lauded peers could ever manage.
I really didn’t know what to expect with a song called Confederate Son; but fear not …. but this Southern Rocker coupled with more NY irony than you could ever imagine has more twists and turns than a Louisiana back road.
I Just Came Here To Tell You is an insightful break up song; sung to a Hill Country arrangement that will have you wiping the dust from your eyes as you tap your feet in 4/4 time.
To all intents and purposes there can only be one Favourite Song here; as it’s as contemporary and razor sharp as you’d hope to hear in 2022; but on any other album another Punk infused Blueser; the punchy Poor Everybody or the incisive and tongue in cheek look at modern life via Organic Lush would surely be my #1; but Front Line Worker Blues wins the title hands down … no contest.
Many others have tried to sing their praise; and most have missed the target; but Ryan hits the bullseye with not just his fabulously observational words; but the harsh and even angry sounding arrangement; which it should be.
I’m not going to spoil the surprises by repeating the vignettes contained hear; but as a ‘Front Line Worker’ myself; (a bus driver who worked all through the pandemic) I can only applaud Jack and the Cooks for this special song.
Because I received this album four months after its release I very nearly dismissed it without listening; but now I have I feel like a Musical Evangelist and now need to scream it’s raw beauty from the rooftops!
Released March 18th 2022
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