As a singer, Jay Soul many times sounds like Roland Gift, if anybody still remembers the Fine Young Cannibals. He’s much more of a traditional soul singer, stylistically. While Fine Young Cannibals touched upon soul music, and were greatly influenced by the style, the group also incorporated a whole lot of alternative rock into their repertoire as well.
The biggest problem one might have with Soul’s singing on Stay With Me is that he’s not as pleasant a vocalist whenever he truly pushes his voice. If he’s keeping things relatively stable and straight, as he does with “First Love” — a nice lyric describing a guy’s first crush that sadly turns into merely a friendship relationship – he sounds comfortable and good. However, on this album’s title track he sounds to be straining a bit and that’s just not all that enjoyable for the listener.
With that said, though, Soul has more on his mind than just wooing girls. Granted, the majority of this album concerns that primary male pursuit. Even so, the song “Get a Job” calls out people that are intentionally lazy. Over a funky, soul groove Soul tells these unemployed ones that they can’t just sit around and wait for something to happen; they need to take action. The devil does find work for idle hands to do, so just sitting around and watching the world go by can lead into finding trouble. Therefore, Soul advises folks get busy working.
When Soul announces, “Let’s go to the dance floor” during “Dance,” he shows his more relaxed lyrical side. He’s not taking on the cause of the unemployed here, but looking for a little physical response to music. He sings it over a gentle dance groove that has a bit of a 80s Prince-ly vibe going for it. “Shake it, shake it back and forth,” he calls out at one point leading the late night festivities.
One called “Afraid Reprised (Live)” is a nice, spontaneous touch. It features nothing more than Soul’s voice, piano and acoustic guitar. It has a sound similar to a John Legend song, and is one of the album’s best tracks. It’s both soulful and jazzy at the same time. Its lyric finds Soul confessing he’s “scared to love again.” Such is a common emotion; especially for those that have been hurt in love before. Yet this song is the sound of a hesitant lover, giving it another try. “Thank You” is another stripped down song, as this one only features Soul’s voice matched against an acoustic piano. It’s a song of gratitude, and quite effective. It almost sounds like a gospel song, even though it’s fairly clearly sung about a romantic partner.
Jay Soul has the name of a soul star. Let’s see if he can change it from the moniker of an aspiring superstar to an actual big name. For the most part, this is a good album featuring good singing. Soul may not have the quality voice to compete with the John Legends or Aloe Blacc’s of this world. Even so, he is talented and skilled and will likely only get better as he goes. Perhaps the best thing about Stay With Me is how much of it is what can best be termed organic soul. In other words, this music doesn’t come off overly processed or overly hip hop-tized (if that is even a term). It comes off like music that could have easily been made many years ago, before a lot of the modern technology of today began to overshadow the simple beauties of soul music. Let’s hope those that enjoy the ‘real stuff’ discover what Soul can do. He’s a keeper.