2019 has been introducing all of us to some really gifted artists, many of whom had gone under the radar of mainstream recognition for far too long now. Among the more gifted veteran acts to be attracting some new attention this summer is none other than Mr. Jay Elle, a singer/songwriter whose new record Ease Up is perhaps the very essence of contemporary hybrid folk. In songs like “Take a Holiday,” the title track and “Sickly Sweet,” Elle melds elements of classic rock into balladic folk song structures that lean just as heavily on the postmodern as they do the straightforward and classical. Despite the wide-ranging mashup of styles and sonic textures, Ease Up is a truly easy-listening experience that doesn’t ask a whole lot out of us in exchange for the melodic treasures that it offers, and in terms of compositional integrity, it’s absolutely one of the more impressive EPs that I’ve heard this season. Jay Elle is in the top tier of his class, and in this record he highlights why he deserves the respect of the masses now more than ever.
Elle’s voice is the very backbone of Ease Up, and in songs like the title track, “Never Dreamed (I Could Be the One)” and “Needs Fixing,” it helps for us to look deeper into than narrative than we would have had a different singer been in the booth instead of him. “By the Blade” is the most dexterously constructed track on this extended play, but it isn’t led by some sense of arrogance on the part of its conductor; in all actuality, it’s built around its harsh instrumental undertow (which delivers one of Ease Up’s most exciting moments in the chorus).
He’s wearing his heart on his sleeve with us in every song here, but taking care to avoid being overly personal in his storytelling. There’s scarcely a point in the tracklist where he gets off topic, and even when he does, his poetic emissions are often so charming that it works – even when it definitely wouldn’t have for another artist. Elle knows what he’s doing here, and his confidence alone is something to be marveled at.
If what Jay Elle is presenting to us in Ease Up is on par with the material that he’s still got in the tank waiting to see release, there should be no doubts as to whether or not he’s going to have a long and prosperous career ahead of him. Though a lot of fans might be unfamiliar with the music that he’s made in the last few years, his sound is really coming into its own in this sextet of compositions, and I would bet on his finding a much larger audience because of their mighty melodies. Whether he attains the approval of the mainstream stalwarts or not is, frankly, irrelevant here; this record is a passionate identity piece that comes from a legitimately organic source, and that makes it not just a rare offering in 2019, but an exquisite look into the soul of its primary songwriter, the one and only Jay Elle.