Dennis Jay got a large part of his early musical education as a child of an American military family living in Germany. He found inspiration and comfort by listening to Armed Forces Radio Network. “Every day I’d come home from school and turn on AFN,” Jay says. “Most of the DJs were regular GIs who’d brought their record collections overseas. A lot of the music was from the South and West, and they’d play folk songs, cowboy songs, country & western, and rhythm and blues along with early rock & roll. There were no artificial barriers between these types of music.”
This eclectic blend laid the foundation for Jay’s original songs, which are on full display in his new Western & Country release. Produced by acclaimed musician Lloyd Maines (Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Dixie Chicks), Jay pulls together elements from traditional genres including classic C&W, folk, blues, cowboy songs and Mexican ballads, to create a cohesive, fresh sound that’s entirely his own.
Linda Ray, reviewing Jay's first album "What You See" in No Depression, said, “Artfully written in straightforward rhymes, his lyrics are loaded with simple emotions arising from honky-tonks and other blue collar settings, but common to conflicted lovers and losers everywhere.” True West’s Gus Walker echoed the praise, writing “It’s a straight-from-the-heart slice of life…. The influence of Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb and Lefty Frizzell haunt his ‘Folk and Western’ compositions.”
Western & Country opens with “Texas Skies Shining In a Cowgirl’s Eyes,” co-written by Maines and Jay, an uptempo showcase featuring a lengthy opening instrumental interplay between Maines, Jay, and Richard Bowden. “I know it’s unusual to kick off an album like this with a largely instrumental tune, but we felt it really set the tone for the songs that follow.”
What follows is Jay’s unique take on Western music as one with quiet conviction and a clear vision that comes from years of traveling and playing music across the United States, making a living with odd jobs such as washing dishes, working in a cemetery, construction and factory work. There are elements of straight up honky-tonk (“My Baby's Arms,” “A Picture In My Wallet”); cowboy ballads (“A Cowboy Tune,” “South of Seguin”); Tex-Mex (“Primicia Volver a Visitar”); and folk (“Watch Over You Tonight,” “The Lights of Deadwood”), all driven by Maines’ stellar production, arrangements, and instrumental work surrounding Jay’s steady rhythm guitar and rich baritone.
When Jay reached Austin, Texas, in the 1970s, he performed both as a solo act and with a band. Next stop was the Maryland/Virginia/DC area, where he formed his own band. He also did occasional solo gigs, such as opening for Steve Earle at the Birchmere. Jay's latest recording produced by Lloyd Maines is an EP entitled Bluebonnet Days In Texas. It will make its debut on radio station KSSL near Lubbock, Texas on September 14, 2019. Dennis now permanently resides in the San Antonio, Texas, area.