JAY GONZALEZ – ” Sunspot “

Posted: March 20, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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Jay Gonzalez of the band Drive-by Truckers has more in common with polished sounds of The Beatles and The Beach Boys in his solo efforts than he does with the gritty, loud rock of his main employer. As this writer offered on Gonzalez’s first solo album, 2011’s  Mess of Happiness – Gonzalez is an excellent translator. As you listen, you can’t help but hearken back to the hooks of great pop records—be it Billy Joel, Todd Rundgren, or the two aforementioned groups. In fact, According to Gonzalez, his inspiration is drawn from Paul McCartney’s“expansive vocal harmonies, multi-song suites, and bittersweet chord progressions. But a bit rawer.”  So here he is once again reimagining the sound of classic A.M. radio through his own kaleidoscopic approach.

Again Gonzalez records in his adopted hometown of Athens, GA, and this time enlists some familiar names to longtime DBT fans, Matt Lane (drums) and John Neff (pedal steel guitar) along with an old friend, drummer Joe Rowe (The Glands). Gonzalez of course can play any keyboard or guitar.  Although his vocal opportunities in the DBTs are of the supporting background variety, he steps out confidently on the lead vocals, showing some improvement from his first solos effort.  From the straight-ahead pop of “(I Wanna) Hold You” and the buoyant “Trampoline” to the emotional Robin Gibb tribute, “Crying Through The Wall,” the album is a fun-filled pop excursion, imbued with adventurous arrangements and timeless song writing.  Many of these songs would be equally at home in the ‘60s or ‘70s.

Gonzalez first arrived in Athens, GA from his native Westchester County, NY more than two decades ago. Together with his good friend and bandmate Chris Grehan, he set to work experimenting with his own brand of power pop while also playing in such esteemed local outfits like The Possibilities. Gonzalez officially joined Drive-By Truckers in 2008, first as a keyboard player and later becoming the third guitarist when needed. His contributions have transformed and broadened the band’s sound.  

Taking inspiration from such unified conceptual works as The Who’s “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” and The Beatles’ Abbey Road side two medleys. Gonzalez followed up with 2015’s The Bitter Suite EP, a seamless five-song opus hailed on these pages as “a pleasing listen through and through with emotional ups and downs, constant tempo changes, and a kaleidoscope of instruments and sounds performed almost exclusively by Gonzalez.

Gonzalez was introduced to Portland, OR indie-rock collaborative Eyelids by fellow Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood and in 2017, contributed instrumental work as a special guest on the band’s acclaimed second album, OR. A series of tours – with Gonzalez backed by his crack live band, The Guilty Pleasures followed. And, more recently, 2019 saw the release of Jay Gonzalez Sings Eyelids Sings Jay Gonzalez, a limited edition 7” single for which each artist wrote an original song for the other to perform and record.

Listening to “Never Felt Bad,” “You Make It Hard (To Be Unhappy),” and the instrumental fare such as the opening “Sunspots” or “Loons on the Lake” is a joy; this album can lift your spirits when you’re feeling down or it can be the perfect soundtrack to a lovely, breezy, sunny Spring day. Yes, those days are coming.  When they arrive, bring Gonzalez with you.

“Sunspot” by Jay Gonzalez Released on: 12th February 2021

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