Up-and-Coming Folk Rocker

Dreams and Memories (Independent)
Jay Stamper

By Kevin Gibson

Louisville singer/songwriter Jay Stamper wears his heart on his sleeve in his debut release, Dreams and Memories, a five-song effort filled with songs of love, longing, life and more love.

Just 19, Stamper exhibits a depth of honesty that is refreshing, even if lyrically he underachieves a tad. The strength here is in his singing voice, which recalls a youthful Neil Young in a way and also occasionally exerts moments of Fran Healy of Travis. Stamper occasionally misses notes, yet this somehow plays into what he is trying to accomplish.

Another key success in this set is his collaboration with producer Dan Weigleb, an underrated songwriter in his own right. Weigleb performs all the backing instrumentation, adding wonderful layers of emotion to Stamper's efforts, while deftly staying out of the way at the same time.

Dreams and Memories plays like collaboration in many ways, with Stamper pouring forth and letting Weigleb fill in the gaps so effectively that it's as if they're of one mind at times. And the songs are more rocking then I expected when I first took a look at the album art, I expected a simple acoustic-guitar-and-vocal presentation, but Weigleb occasionally moves the music into a bluesy-rock direction. And it works.

The best song, "Wishing Well," is saved for last here; it's a farewell to a lost love mixed with a "what am I doing with my life" look inward. "Another cold November morning/The rain is falling down/Like me." In addition, he alludes to being "at the bottom of a wishing well," and plays double on the phrase with the chorus "I want to wish you well, love."

"Lullaby" is another strong one - driven by Weigleb's excellent riffs, which play perfectly with Stamper's pleading vocal, it lays down a great melody and the refrain builds to a satisfying conclusion, complete with the signature Stamper honesty. The reggae-infused "Man in the Moon" brings a nice musical diversion as well.

The greatest upside here is that Stamper is clearly on a good songwriting path - even though he occasionally opts for the easy lyric, the honesty pulls him through. "Being with you is like a dream/Never had a better one even when I sleep" may not knock the ball out of the park on its own, but the delivery is capable enough that it works. Mixing in just enough imagery to keep things concrete serves Stamper well, even when he's being sentimental.

And let's face it - it isn't easy to write a love song because most of them have already been written.

Two thumbs up to this first effort by a very young songwriter. He's learned much from songwriting friend Turley Richards and Weigleb is clearly a solid collaborator. Expect good things to come.

Find out more at www.myspace.com/jaystampermusic.