Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Local Artist Spotlight: Jay Buchanan

[photo by: Libby Wendt]

There are so many great local bands and musicians here in Orange County. But one of my favorite, hands DOWN, is Jay Buchanan. Gypsy Lounge owner, the great and powerful Mike Concepcion, has been quoted as saying he is "gay for Jay." That's how good he is. Women love him, and men want to be him. He is an intoxicating musical cocktail of rock n' roll, soul, psychadelia, and pure, undefiled, raw emotion.

[Jay rockin the harmonica at a Rival Sons show at the Hard Rock in San Diego]

Jay has the kind of story just begging to be made into a VH1 Behind the Music featurette. Made straight F's in highschool but read Henry Miller novels and Dostoyevsky purely for pleasure. Like a page out of Into The Wild, Buchanan just up and left his Southern California home at 20 and hitch-hiked his way to Alaska, just a journal, harmonica and guitar to survive on. Living out the Bob Dylan lyrics "well, I got a harmonica job, begun to play, blowin' my lungs out for a dollar a day" Jay made his way as a troubador by playing for whoever would listen, carefully evading the authorities at every point. He's been courted by exec after record label exec, he's been oh-so-close to hitting it "big" oh-so-many times, and instead of coming out of this vicious cycle a weather-worn, bottle-hugging would-have-been, he's still making some of the best music of his life. All the heartaches and letdowns that afflict all musicians either to make or break them, have worked to mold Buchanan into a well seasoned musician with a good head on his shoulders and a clear perspective on what really matters in life.

[Photo by Becky Neiman]

I often describe Jay to friends as the love child of Robert Plant and Janis Joplin. His voice has that banshee-esque quality, reminiscent of that golden musical era of Zeppelin and Joplin and Van Morrison mixed with the soul and vocal flexibility of his musical inspirations Otis Redding and Nina Simone. Add to that the folk quality of one of his other inspirations, Bob Dylan, and you're close to describing the glory that is Jay Buchanan. He's raucous and sensitive all at the same time. It's glorious. And it's just one of those things that you have to experience live to fully understand. The albums don't do him justice; The live videos don't even do it. My attempts at explaining it are definitely not doing it. Just look up the next time Jay Buchanan will be in your town (his band the Rival Sons have a residency at Cinespace in Holllywood in January), and be there. You can thank me later.

[Jay (second to left) with the rest of The Rival Sons]

I sound like an addict, I know. But I'm not alone. There's a community of Jay Buchanan addicts out there. The OC Gazette design team makes up a small part of that community. OC Weekly's Rick Kane is another loyal addict, quoted as saying that Jay "is becoming like a bad, bad habit - hear them, and you'll want to feel that good for the rest of your life." "He'll break your heart," said long-time Jay supporter and addict Linda Jemison of the Doll Hut in Anaheim. This was posted by a fan on Jay's band's online forum: "Your music hauntingly soothes me … or does it soothingly haunt me?" Here is a link to Jay's solo myspace page (authors note: we listen to "Feel Better" on repeat during our last day of uploading the magazine to press. It's the only thing that keeps us from bursting into tears from exhaustion), here is a link to his old band Buchanan, and here is a link to Jay's band the Rival Sons myspace page. Get ready to reach nirvana.

- Amy
Listening to Jay Buchanan's "Feel Better"


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