Jay Hemphill is an acoustic singer-songwriter located in Long Beach, California. He has been writing music for roughly four or five years, gaining experience by writing music for other bands in the Long Beach area when he is not working on his own quirky solo projects. He has no intention to perform live as of yet, but hopefully he’ll get a band together in the future. I feel this music would transpose well to a live environment.
His latest EP entitled These Are The Things I Think About Sometimes begins with the stunningly sweet opener “A Song.” Perhaps the title offers nothing in terms of what the song will be about, but that makes it all the sweeter when it reveals itself. In the end, as soothing and mellow an acoustic song as it is, the lyrics take on quite a comedic, witty purpose. Hemphill says he doesn’t want anyone “to connect with me or catch themselves in my verse” because he wants “to sing for better or worse.” This sentiment seems quite light-hearted in intent, as the entire song promises not to change the world.
In fact, Hemphill wonders why the listener is ‘even listening’ because surely we have “better things to do.” Essentially, he narrates every single moment of the track as it’s happening, quipping that he will “change his fill” before increasing the pace of the acoustic guitar. It’s unique, funny and a melodically-pleasant piece of ear candy all at the same time. As if that were not enough, an unexpected electric guitar solo bursts out towards the end of the song above the tempered acoustic guitar in a burst of insanity. It’s definitely like no other music I’ve heard before, if only for the lyrical quirkiness.
“Song of the Sea” maintains the slightly off-the-cuff, serious, sentimental, but not-serious-at-the-same-time style that Hemphill has laid down as a form of brickwork foundation in the opening track. Beautiful, restrained acoustic guitar supports his crooning, straining voice as he sings of the sea in a joyous, but perhaps nostalgic way. Hemphill’s message seems to be less about the message itself and more about the journey to reach it. I get the feeling that we’re not always supposed to know why he’s singing about albatrosses, but simply listen attentively. There’s something infectious about the combination of vocals, sweet and simple melodies and unique lyrics in these tracks. It’s hard to place a finger on until you’ve listened for yourself.
“One Day’ is a song that proves that the effect of recording a track as if it were a live session can work perfectly if you know what you’re doing. He tinkers with a violin, rapidly strums a string of acoustic guitar notes and tops off the whole experience with vocals which reverberate around the walls of the studio. These elements all combine to create an electrifying and intoxicating atmosphere.
Jay Hemphill has created a enjoyable and totally unexpected EP here. As far as acoustic musicians go, he caught me completely off-guard. Sweet melodies coupled with lyrics often humorous if they weren’t simply weirdly unique. The vocals and songwriting ability are on point, but it is that extra spark of something new which makes this artist’s music so refreshing to digest.
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