"There is no quibble about raising Jay Aymar to the higher rungs on the steep ladder of Canadian singer/songwriters, not just his contemporaries but of all time!" Penguin Eggs (Doug Swanson).
AN HONEST JOURNEYMAN OF MUSIC
(By Richard Flohil)
There aren’t many singers like Jay Aymar.
First of all, he’s a talker. He’d rather have a good conversation with you than sing, because he’ll probably get the idea for a good song out of it.
Secondly, he’s not a kid, and he’s not seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses. He’s been around the block? Yes, sir, that’s Jay Aymar. Twenty years of shows, twenty years of good friends everywhere he goes.
Thirdly, Jay Aymar’s a bit like you and I, except that he travels more, sings narrative songs that spring from a tradition established by wandering troubadours since Chaucer’s day, and will always stop for a beer with a stranger.
His dad says that Jay’s not exactly Frank Sinatra, but he admits his boy can tell a good story, and can take you on a roller coaster ride between laughter and tears during the three minutes it takes him to sing a song that came to him as he drove from Toronto to the Soo.
Jay’s been described as a Canadian everyman, because he gets his songs from the people he meets, and they are as complicated — and simple — as the drifter in the tap room, the traveler in the bus station, and the school teacher at Starbucks. He gets ideas from movies, great books and trash novels, and tunes he hears on the radio as the station fades between Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The winners and losers and lovers and fighters all contribute their voices, adding the details as well as the big ideas.
So far, there have been six albums of these songs of fact and fiction, rooted in particular places and particular times.
The most recent album, Overtime, tops them all. Produced by David Baxter and recorded and mixed at Baxter’s downtown hideaway, Knob & Tube Studios, Overtime follows two breakthrough CDs, Halfway Home and Passing Through. Aymar’s backed with a solid band, with Baxter on lead guitar and mandolin, Laura Bates on fiddle and Lucas Gadke on bass, with guest appearances from Burke Carroll on dobro, Treasa Levasseur on accordion and piano and vocals, Kara Manovich on kick drum and vocals, and Will Staunten on washboard.
The songs hint at Tom T. Hall and Tom Paxton, there’s a whispered echo of Woody Guthrie, and a pinch of Stephen Leacock and Mark Twain. And there’s one song, “Your Precious War” that Phil Ochs, somewhere, is applauding. And the cover, a Norman Rockwell-like photographic cartoon, is a joke with a denouncement on the inside of the sleeve;
And then off he goes again. Big towns, small towns but, for the most part, better and bigger dates than he’s had before on his cross-country journeys. He finds his fans one by one by one, and now there are enough of them to fill bigger halls, bigger folk clubs, bigger festivals.
There’ll be midnight campfires throughout the warmer months, late night conversations in obscure hotel lounges that dot the country. There’ll be jokes in the bar after the concert, and someone else will bring a guitar and some of their own songs. Jay Aymar knows how it goes… and he knows the people he’ll meet, the conversations he’ll have, and the details and the detritus of the road.
Look for him on Vancouver Island, across the Prairies, in the cities and the small towns. When you meet him, give him what he deserves: a true story, a joke, a conversation about where we’re all going, and for what reason.
In exchange, he’ll illuminate your world with a song.
As always, he’ll be passing through, halfway home, and working overtime. That is, after all, how one becomes and honest journeyman of music.