Black Music Matters Festival

Dennis Jay

Western & Country – 2016 (Linkhole)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Dennis Jay

As the title suggests there are plenty of cowboy tunes and traditional country on San Antonio-based Dennis Jay's "Western & Country" with touches of folk and Tex Mex. The western influence is evident on the opening "Texas Skies Shining in a Cowgirl's Eyes," which begins with nearly two minutes of impressive instrumental jamming between Jay (acoustic guitar), producer Lloyd Maines (steel guitar, rhythm guitar, percussion, bass) and Richard Bowden (fiddle) before Jay launches into his vocal. The closing "Streets of Laredo," the lone cover on the album, takes a minimalist approach with Jay's baritone vocal accompanied only by his banjo.

Jay is equally comfortable with more traditional country offerings such as the Johnny Cash flavored "The Thorns of Your Roses," featuring Lisa Gamache on harmony vocals and a slick lead guitar solo from Maines. Gamache also contributes nicely on the duet ballad "The Gamble." Elsewhere "A Picture in My Wallet" and "My Baby's Arms" recall Ernest Tubb.

The folksy "Watch Over You Tonight" and "Right Up On the Edge," reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson, are among the stronger tracks with the Tex Mex "Primicia (Volver a Visitar)" and "South Of Seguin" further highlights.

The musicianship is stellar throughout lead by Maines, primarily known for producing and his steel guitar work, demonstrating his multi-instrumental talents including spoons on "South of Seguin."Other notable contributors are Terri Hendrix (harmonica), Howard T. Levine (guitar), Jimmie Scott Calhoun (upright bass), Bukka Allen (piano) and William Mansell (drums). With strong tunes and Jay's pleasant, soothing baritone vocals this is an enjoyable listen.