He's sneaky fast. Like Tommy John. Who Jay remembers as a veteran pitcher before he became better known as a kind of shoulder surgery.
Jay Linden has been around, off and on, for a very long time. Jay is a legend (1 inch = 1/2 mile) of 40 years standing and some other years of sitting around. He's unabashedly acoustic, unabashedly folk rooted. His musical trail comes up from Woody, Pete, Jimmie Rogers and the Carter Family, through Dylan, Johnny Cash and the 50s folk scare and through contemporaries like Townes, Willie P, Dolly Parton, Dave Carter and more. He writes and sings memorable folk songs and plays a lot of fretted and stringy things.
Back in the '70s, Jay was an up-and-coming folkie. A decent songwriter and a good guitar player who shared stages and backstages with many of Canada's finest -- Jay hates to drop names (and usually won’t do so even if you ask), but he will admit to some interesting acquaintances:
"Stan Rogers used to call me by name when he wanted me to move out of his way. Adam Mitchell used to chide me for making an occasional mistake when I sang his songs. I spent two years as the guitar player for the Rabbi of Vail, Colorado (Jack Schechtman, then a Toronto-based singer/songwriter). I have sung high falsetto harmony notes I can no longer hit onstage with Willie P. Bennett. I have driven around town with such luminaries as Tom Rush, Livingston Taylor and John Allan Cameron. I have eaten dinner with All Three Members of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings. At the same time. Their treat. I've known Paul Mills since before Trevor Mills was born. Leon Redbone has played my guitar -- while I was holding it. Steve Goodman played it onstage at Mariposa one year. I knew Grit Laskin before he started making guitars (and have one of his very earliest ones.) And I know Bob Dylan's first name."
Then, more suddenly than it started, Jay took the 80s and 90s off, writing no songs and rarely even picking up a guitar. A reformed smoker who quit a 35-year habit 5 years ago, Jay's figured out that he started making music again "for something to do with my hands".
And started writing songs again. Memorable ones, this time.
So what prompts a 50-something folkie to come out with a debut album? Partly the fact that he's full of good new songs. Partly the fact that it's a debut only because he hasn't recorded one before. Mostly, it's time.
The album is filled with road miles and timelessness. Jay's songs are slices of universe with mature, universal themes, impeccable lyrics, simple yet elegant melodies ... poignancy without too much pathos ... they float in time and space like a Monet painting and a Douglas Adams story, only without the pan-galactic gargle blasters. They pay homage to the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. Spiked between some of the songs are snippets of music on a few of the instruments in Jay's collection -- the Spanish laud, the tiple, an all-chrome banjo-uke. Plus a bit of harmonica. Sorry, no cuatro.
The production is sparse and folksy. Recorded in Guelph by Ken Brown. Mixed by Colin Linden. All songs by Jay other than some of the instrumental snippets. Jay sings and plays guitar, sometimes all by himself. Ken plays some uptight bass and sings background vocals on a couple of tracks. Jay Weiler plays some fiddle. Colin plays some dobro and some mandolin. There’s some drone stuff we can’t remember who played or on what – maybe Jay on the bajo sexto or the tres cubano or the bandurria, harmonica, cumbus saz or ocarina, then sampled and looped by Ken.
The debut album is called “Satchel”. Partly after the case he's been filling up with miles and songs and memories. Partly after that other ancient rookie, Leroy "Satchel" Paige. Another guy who'd been around for a very long time before he hit the mainstream. Satchel made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. And Jay? You never know.
He's sneaky fast.