Jay & The Cooks has released a new album. It’s titled Dried Up Dreams. But first, for those of you not yet familiar with the act in question, a bit o’ background.
Jay Ryan is an expatriate singer-songwriter, and fronting musician for Jay & The Cooks. Ryan’s rockin’ resume includes five previous platters and several singles. According to the official website, his early beginnings in music harken back to “the end of the 60s” when he “played the trombone in the streets of Chicago in the High School Marching Band. In 1972 [he attended] Indiana University, where he avoided the draw to be sent to Vietnam and discovered the bass, the blues, and campus life…
“In the mid-70’s he went off to Austin and became a member of the worst group in town… but the first group to play in the legendary Continental Club. In 1980, he sold his bass to buy an airplane ticket [to] the South of France.” Here he fell in love with “French Cuisine and the cuisine of Chez Ernest.”
Ryan “became a cook while at the same time putting together a blues band with the celebrated caterer from Cannes. From the mid-80’s to 1999 Jay devoted all his time to music” where he could be found “alongside Yohan Asherton, Les Froggies, Jesse Garon, Jacno, Paris Slim, or in concert with Elliot Murphy as well as the manager bass player of the Transcontinental Cowboys.” He soon rediscovered “Bob Dylan, his Irish origins, new recipes and in the end the desire to play again.”
The band’s signature sound is a musical mélange of multiple genres including elements of Americana, alternative, blues, country, and rock. He has been influenced by both American and French songwriters and musicians.
Dried Up Dreams
Dried Up Dreams is a 10-track album of 9 original compositions and one translated cover cut. Here Ryans leads the way on guitar and vocals. According to the official website, “most of the musicians who accompany Jay Ryan on the record are [also] expatriates” including Stéphane Missri (banjo and guitars), Marten Ingle (bass and double bass), Marty Vickers (drums), Paul Susen (fiddle and mandolin) and Christian Poidevin (harmonica and dobro.)
Ryan recorded this record mainly because he wanted to share his “experience as an immigrant.” By recording “songs with a blues feel sprinkled with country” he was reminded of the country when he was younger. The “heavy, imposing drums and bass” are meant to be reminiscent of “70s recordings.”
He noted that “the album was recorded on analog vintage equipment.” Ryan concluded: “The album is dedicated to Bernard Rousseau who passed away just after the recording of this album. Bernard was our in-house photographer; he’ll be greatly missed.”
Track by Track
The album opens with “Alton McCarver.” This is a song-story about “an Afro-American worker” who was “a bad dude” worthy of anyone’s respect despite his particular penchant for purple Cadillacs and fuzzy dice. It’s a somewhat surprising opening to the singing septuagenarian’s disc that undoubtedly draws on his provocative past.
Track two is the tune “Frontline Worker Blues.” Missri wrote the music for this one. It’s an unabashed, unapologetic response to the pandemic. Here he expresses his dissatisfaction for the powers that be allowing essential workers to work through the height of the pandemic.
The next number is “Chew The Cud.” This single focuses on a heated discussion over drinks in a barroom. It comes complete with several pop culture references too that make it wonderfully real.
Also included here is “I Just Came To Tell You I’m Going.” It’s an English adaptation of a French song by Serge Gainbourg. It takes things in a slightly different direction yet fits in nonetheless. This ons is also the only cover cut on the entire album.
“Poor Everybody” follows. This one is perhaps a musical byproduct of some of our darker days. Still, Ryan and the band make it work.
The sixth songful serving is “Deaf Water.” Who knew deaf water had a bluesy sound to it? Never mind, it’s a clever cut.
The seventh selection is “Organic Lush.” This one is both fun and funny if you really listen to it. It’s perfect for college radio.
The upbeat eighth offering is “Dried Up Hearts.” The signature sound remains strong here. It also provides us with one last example of Ryan’s solo songwriting abilities.
The ninth number is “Empty Glass Of Love.” This one features music by Christian Drapier. It is, a t times, vaguely somehow reminiscent of late 1960s Doors-era music. The lyrics, of course, are all Ryans’s.
The Closing cut is the rockin’ “Confederate Son.” While it was written by John R. Clark, it is not noted to be a cover per se. Some sources also credit Missri in there as well. Whatever, its origins may be confusing, but it is an effective, unexpected inclusion and offers listeners one final little surprise.
Overall, the material here is mainly the result of past experiences both relatively recent and not so. The songs were reportedly “inspired by real life stories” and generally reflect his tuneful take on literature, recent events, history, people, and reality. The overall presentation here is often bold and straightforward.
The choice of instruments and recording equipment gives the work an almost retro feel at times, making new material seem somehow friendly if not familiar. So check out Jay & The Cooks’ Dried Up Dreams and learn just what “Deaf Water” sounds like.