Jay Kayle’s general vibe is that of the bohemian folk singer who lives his life on a whim and travels from city to city with nothing but a smile and a guitar on his shoulder. If you have ever seen the excellent movie Inside Llewyn Davis, Kayle seems to mimic a lot of the qualities of the protagonist in the movie.
The theme and the titles themselves on the album Two are indicative of the traveling folk hero. Kayle stated that he wrote these songs “during my study abroad so it's mainly about traveling but there are other themes of questioning if you're following the right path and making the right decisions.” The titles of the songs, which include “Guess I'm Leaving Again” and “Running Backwards” only add to the mystique.
In general Kayle plays basic guitar chords and has a decent singing voice. He stays in a low, comfortable range, which can be monotonous in a Johnny Cash kind of way. It was never bad but just lacked any kind of dynamics. I would encourage him to listen to Kristian Matsson if he hasn’t already. He shouldn't mimic him but might benefit from seeing how much energy and emotion Matsson is able to generate by stretching his voice to its threshold.
The album starts with “Chasing Trains” which starts with a lone harmonica. Once the guitar comes in Kayle sings about the rambling man and rolling hills. He sings, “This road goes on for days / Through north and southern states / It's seen the hills it's seen the shore / I wish that I could see Michigan through Tennessee / From this old hole burnt in the floor.”
“Guess I'm Leaving Again” has a good vibrant energy from his guitar but his vocals fail to mimic the energy. I couldn't help but think the song would have benefited from him singing at a higher octave. “The Good Old Days” contains some elements of folk but could be considered straight up pop with the palatable vocal melodies. “Running Backwards” is arguably the highlight and introduces some percussive elements. Unfortunately the percussive is noticeably off time especially when it starts.
Kayle has talent but still has plenty of room for improvement. There’s nothing wrong with the folk hero cliché he is barking but at the end of the day he is going to need some individual elements, which separate him from the idea. Hopefully we will be hearing more from him soon.
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