Spotlight Album

A Proper Homecoming

Darren Jay: Back home–to the States and to the blues


Darren Jay & The Delta Souls

Darren Jay Music

Memphis-based bluesman Darren Jay has served his country twice: in 1996 he joined the U.S. Navy and remained in active service until 2005; currently he is deployed with the U.S. Navy reserves to Kuwait, but is scheduled to return Stateside this month. Some time before he left for Kuwait, though, he assembled his first-rate band (anchored by former Eric Hughes Band bassist Laura Cupit), brought in a few choice guests (such as the formidable Memphis Horns trumpeter Wayne Jackson, among others) and cut Drink My Wine, an album that serves the blues well and does himself proud at the same time. (It’s Jay’s second album, but his first since 2007’s Panhandle Blues, which was recorded with an entirely different supporting case when he was residing in Pensacola, Florida.) All but two of the 11 tunes are Jay originals, with the program rounded out by a stomping, sinister take on Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man,” with a suitably strutting vocal by Jay, who complements it with his stinging electric guitar, and a thick, surging treatment of Robert Geddins’s “Tin Pan Alley,” on which Art Edmaiston’s baritone and tenor saxes brood in sinister, slow boiling fashion as Jay decriesa horrific night of terror on the street (“all the people down there/killin’ for the whiskey, wine and gin…”) that he evokes with the tension in his vocal and the ferocity of his wah-wahed soloing.

Darren Jay & The Delta Souls, ‘Tin Pan Alley,’ from the album Drink My Wine

Like these, Jay’s own tunes are straight-ahead, bare-knuckle electric blues, well executed in all aspects. Jay and the Delta Souls (in addition to Cupit on bass, the lineup includes Hubert “H-Bomb” Crawford on drums and Tony Thomas on keyboards) kick off the album on a rousing note with the tasty, driving instrumental “Rider,” which in a little less than three-and-a-half minutes shows off the band’s estimable chops, from Jay’s concise but explosive guitar work, to the rhythm section’s righteous pulse and Thomas’s impressive feel for right organ texture at the right time to add extra heft to the workout. Then, with the assistance of a full horn section of Jackson, Edmaiston and Mark Franklin (trumpet) surging and pumping along behind him, Jay lights into the drudgery of the daily grind on “Workday Blues,” a brisk shuffle boasting an especially searing guitar solo from Jay when he’s not laying out the particulars of his complaint in his matter-of-fact style or cutting loose the horns for their own spirited retorts. “Lovin’ Man” has it all: a funky, Latin-inflected riff from Thomas percolating through the whole track; a subtle, suggestive vocal by Jay along with his ringing guitar work; a powerhouse display by the rhythm section; and a nice tempo downgrade that sets up rousing, unison vocals and a fierce closing guitar solo from Jay to send it home. The Credence-inspired final track, “River’s Edge,” features Jay’s “thick, twangy “Susie-Q” guitar, an especially compelling vocal articulating the urgency of his search for his gal in his beloved Memphis, Crawford’s striking machine-gun attack on the drums (the power he unleashes here, and elsewhere for that matter, explains that “H-Bomb” nickname), all in service to a narrative with an epic feel about it, even though it clocks in at only 4:38.

Darren Jay & The Delta Souls, ‘Too Late Baby,’ from the album Drink My Wine

To the list of many good reasons to visit Memphis, add seeing Darren Jay & The Delta Souls live to the list. You don’t even have to hear him howl “take me down to the river’s edge!” at the end of his album to know he’s glad to be back in the Bluff City. So welcome home to Darren Jay–both to the States, and to the blues, both of which are better off for his commitments to each. Drinks are on us, buddy.

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