Depth in any country song starts with a single lyric, but when looking at the new record Written in Whiskey by rising star singer/songwriter Larry Jay, it’s difficult to pinpoint which of his lyrics deserves this credit. Jay’s style is a lot more fluid than much of the competition’s; he doesn’t have to hang his heart on a singular theme to make a cohesive statement to his fans, and when ripping through the string-born elegance of Written in Whiskey, he doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to telling us exactly what he’s got in his heart.
This singer knows that attacking a hook can go one of two ways when you’ve got the tonality he does at the microphone, and I think he was very smart in choosing to cradle the melodies of “Blood” and “Bad Ass Beautiful” rather than going with something more aggressive. He doesn’t need to illuminate his lyrical narrative in these tracks with a lot of oomph in the booth that would have taken us nowhere – instead, he’s going with a more conservative look in these songs and making them sound like quality singles as a result.
I get some major jam session vibes off of the title cut in Written in Whiskey, and while I don’t know the complete origins of this song, it wouldn’t surprise me if it were created amid improvisation as opposed to formulaic composing sessions. In either case, it would be interesting to hear how Jay plays it in a live setting, mostly because he’s got a couple of different options in terms of how he could potentially structure his verses to sit atop these harmonies. He’s a thoughtful player, and that’s made quite obvious to listeners when exploring the depths of this EP.
“Saving Lives” and “Blood” have a lot of emotion behind them, but they sound all the more made for the stage because of this. I wouldn’t say that Larry Jay is unable to get the humanizing tone of a live gig out of these studio sessions, but he’s undeniably offering us a glimpse into his abilities as they would stand in a more unrestricted environment. He’s hitting it out of the park for this particular kind of venue, and now, I want to make it a point of hearing what he can get done in something just a bit more open.
Although I can’t speak for everyone who follows the country music underground in 2022, I think there’s going to be a solid response to Written in Whiskey this April. Larry Jay shows us that there isn’t much he can’t do when put in the right circumstances to shine like a diamond in this record, and while it’s only four songs deep, it flexes enough melodic muscle to confirm to me that this player is worth taking a look at again in the future. He’s at the beginning of something beautiful, and his handiwork is inspiring to say the least in these four tracks.