JAY SPEARS - Boy Howdy - I Like Mike - Playin' On My Team


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A fab We Are All Born Lucky Review by Pax Romano: read it and weep....
I want you to know how much I am enjoying “We Are All Born Lucky” – and so is my spouse.  The songs are all over the place: sad and happy, hopeful and frightening, ironic and sentimental.  Even your voice, as recognizable as it is, changes quality from song to song.  And the great variety of support musicians of high quality, who really get what you are doing, makes for a great album: no two songs have the same orchestration, the same sound atmosphere.
“This is perfect music for when we are driving about.  It’s beautiful, it’s funny and sad, it has lots of energy, the musicians are on top of their art, and Jay couldn’t be more authentic a fellow than he is.” -- Rob S., NH

Your CD arrived today...awesome artwork!  "Sleep with Me" is my favorite song on the album. Nice work! :)  Jason R., Boston

I am loving the new cd...it's the perfect length for my ride into work. Such great tunes...such happy and optimistic (and twisted) themes. Jay, you rock sir. I hope you don't mind, but during the next couple of weeks I am going to be raving over this one on Facebook. "City Of Angels" is probably my fave tune ... every time I visit LA, I tell myself that I am coming back for good... And you are correct, we ARE born lucky - but most of us don't realize that. Rock On, Jay! -- PR, NJ

The standout track this time is the jitterbuggy "Meat," a swingin' smile-inducin' celebration of all edible muscles (not to put too fine a point on it).  Don't miss the irony that Spears' plainspoken atheism on "Guy In The Sky" comes packaged in the liberally-borrowed tone of "16 Tons" — a big hit in the 60s for Tennessee Ernie Ford, a singer associated just as much with his many christian music releases as his country novelty songs.
I really LOVE the four interior photos on the sleeve: the trio of the inner gatefold, and the LOVE ME wall. -- Bill S., NJ

I have to keep my good mood with your latest, which has quickly become part of the family: sweet memories of 80s gay cabaret in Cologne (those were the days, my friend ...), a refreshing bitterness about some of your songs and two new all-time favorites in "This Is One My Heart Won't Win" and "Victory Day". -- Mianek, Poland

(Of "City Of Angels") Ah the names of the angels...incredible! I especially love the cacophony of sounds in the middle of the song, sort of like the din of the freeways. I spent a long lost weekend in L.A. back when I was 19 years old and this East Coast guy never got that city out of his blood, and am constantly entranced by it. Thanks for the great hymn to a lovely, beguiling city.  --  PR, NJ

Absolutely GREAT! Mr. Spears, if I wrote music, THAT'S what I'd want it to sound like. -- WTS, Los Angeles

OMG!!! I love "Meat" and "City Of Angels". All of them r wonderfully classic Jay Spears, but those 2 r my favs. -- Will -- KY

Your new song "Our Love" made me choke up... You are a man of great depth and feeling hiding behind your mask of humor... That is a great song. Not that the funny ones aren't great... YOU are a special person, Jay. -- Jobey, San Pedro CA

Loving Our Love already! I like the ones in this style - sort of like Bougainvillea (not sure I spelled that right!) Waltz. Anyway, this one sounds almost like medieval. Keep up the good work! -- Martin, UK

(Our Love) Very haunting. very effective when the big chorus charges in mid song.  It has a moodiness that makes me think of the godfather soundtrack. Keep up the fine work. -- Pabs, CA

Your new album rocks; it's really terrific.  Great tunes -- great lyrics.  Well done, amigo.  --  Mike

Jay, "Sleep With Me" was so beautiful, romantic, and somewhat silly - you are such a talent. The tune and theme are somewhat reminiscent of Peter, Paul and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon. Loved it. -- PR, Facebook

Excellent as always Jay.   Brian - Facebook

Wow! "Sleep With Me" is better than Rod Stewart's Stay With Me! - Matt, Facebook

Oh my god....that song... "Sleep With Me"… it is wonderful...  You know...f**king and all is mighty fun...but is the specialness of being held all through the night...feeling the cool summer air...drift you under the quilt... That was really great...   Rhett

All of your new songs are absolutely terrific, (especially "Meat")!   Michael

Hey jay:  if it comes as a music video don’t forget us here in little old Vermont… The Vermont Bear Film Festival loves your stuff as you are a winner of our PAW AWARD… It would be great to have another video from you at the festival.   John

"Sleep With Me" sounds gorgeous - can ya bung us a quick recommend via the usual route and I'll get it to my producer for his consideration - Tom Robinson, BBC6 (England)

As always I'm impressed by your use of subject and the musicality of your work.  Also thanks for being very kind to your fans!!! I'm definitely enjoying your new work and surprised by some of the twists and turns your taking with your music. I love what you are doing and you are a very special artist. -- Don

I spit my milk out through my nose when I heard Meat.  You are awesome!  Billy, CA

Music Review: Jay Spears - What's Not to Like?
by Robert Farrar www.psychodrome.co.uk

It's not easy being a politically engaged queer artist. On the one hand, there is the instinct to puncture pomposity and pretention (ie, to get your dick out), and on the other, the desire to stand up for your dignity as a human being (ie, to keep it buttoned up). Jay Spears is engaged in a project: the creation of a fictitious homotopia, in which old-fashioned, folksy values are reclaimed for the queer folk. On the whole it is a gently comic vision, but it is always subtly subversive and it occasionally erupts into full-on political activism. Spears is an eccentric and an original, less pretentious, and on a tighter budget, than the established gay pop stars, but funnier, more radical and more now.

A recap: the first CD, Boy Howdy, was a ragbag of songs in a somewhat loose assortment of styles, unified by Spears' hilarious wordsmithing and strident personality. Here was a man torn between lusting over firemen and thinking up triple rhymes:
"He's big! Like a guard or a tackle.
He's burnin' me up with a crackle crackle crackle
He makes me sing like the Mormon Tabernacle
(The song in question, House On Fire, also includes the deathless line, "Call 911, make a fireman come.")

The key-note was comedy. There were stories about flaunting your hot date in front of disappointed rivals, guys who come up with inadequate excuses when they cancel ("He got a new puppy so he had to stay home"), days from hell when you drop your wallet in the toilet. The stand-out track was the delirious I Like Mike ("I like Mike, what's not to like?") a hot voodoo swing number with duelling saxes and a chorus of studs ("We like Mike!"). Here Spears set out his stall as to his vision of modern gay sexuality. The musical and cultural references are consciously retro; '50s wholesomeness/squareness is subsumed into the homo agenda. The lyric reads like Tennessee Williams straying into a Jane Austen novel, the refined narrator gently insisting on proper behaviour from his brutish ball-playing admirer:
"Mike doesn't chew
Cos I asked him not to.
He asked me to dance but I sat it out;
Mike got the hint and he spat it out."

The new CD, Playin' On My Team, has a thicker, more confident sound, and the eclectic elements coalesce into a signature style, guitar-pop with an agenda. Once again he is supported by his Harmonious Hetero Homeboys and other guest stars. The drums sound better, the backing vocal arrangements are excellent as ever and there's great work from solo instrumentalists (the spectre of Brian May continues to hover magisterially over the feast). Spears himself plays guitar, bass, mouth organ and banjo. In other words, this is not an album thrown together on someone's Apple Mac in twenty minutes.

The hilarity is less manic this time, tempered by more depth and atmosphere. Swept Away describes a swimming accident on a camping trip, and yields a nice goose-bumps moment when you realise that Spears is actually talking about something else: no matter how wholesome or well-meaning we may be, sex (or does he just mean life?) is a force of nature and it's bigger than us. We could be happily married one minute and a lonesome cowboy the next. A haunting harmonica part (by Ken Deifik) chills the warmth of the campfire guitar. Perfect.

On Who Is This Guy? Spears lets go of his compulsion to amuse, and allows himself to be a poet, accompanied by a gorgeous gypsy violin (Darius Campo) and sexy Rawhide back-up vocals:
"Ask the right question if you know how:
What's going through my heart right now?"
The result is mature and authentic, reminiscent of some of Bob Dylan's Desire. In the last verse Spears strays into uncharacteristically pornographic territory, asking "this guy" to "drench my dormant desert with unbidden seed." The line is whispered. Did the wholesome homo shock himself with his own image?

One of Spears' strands is the depression-era misery-ballad. On Boy Howdy we got the Lou Reed-esque gloom-fest Nothin'. Similar in format is the new My Belinda, in which he duets with regular guest vocalist Annie Combs. But there's nothing hetero about it: what we hear is the heart-warming sound of a pouf and a dyke whining simultaneously, and in harmony.

Jay Spears is an exuberant lyricist who manages, on the whole, to steer clear of any suggestion of showtunes (he's more cinematic than theatrical). Listening to him, one has the pleasant sensation of being massaged by wit.
"I shoulda known you'd be an awful spouse
When our first date was at the Waffle House…"
Yes, it's a double-rhyme: in America "awful" rhymes directly with "waffle." In My Ray the listener notices details about the doomed relationship that the narrator is too infatuated to see:
"Big soft hands, we like the same bands,
A match made in heaven, my beautiful man."
The big soft hands are perhaps, in reality, clammy, and as for liking the same bands… It is characteristic of Spears' deceptive sophistication that he can pose as both na‘ve and jaded at the same time.

He's a good vocalist in the sense that Dylan is a good vocalist: it's all about delivery. For some listeners this will be a stumbling-block. (Diana Krall fans may need some convincing.) He throws himself into his songs with an abandon that at times can sound demented. Personally I find this a feature. It makes me want to sing along as I do the washing up. He will hurl himself into dangerous narratives like the HIV-positive date and the dying mother, he will cover a camp old bubblegum number (My Boyfriend's Back) that maybe doesn't quite suit his voice, he will rant against born-again Christians ("Roll up the Bill of Rights and wap! wap! wap! 'em on the head!") But then, as he says himself, "walks on thin ice never before felt so nice." Even the questionable cover-version contributes, like a brush-stroke on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, to the glory of the whole, with its Austen-esque cry, "My boyfriend's back, he's going to save my reputation!"

Jay Spears is funny, angry, sexy, generous and badly-behaved. He enjoys himself more than a pop star should. He has no interest in being cool or post-modern or evasive. He is a true heir of the '60s, when style and political engagement were more congruent, and pop music had more spiritual energy. He takes Jimi Hendrix's psychedelic battle-cry,
"Excuse me while I kiss the sky"
and, just by softening a single consonant, effortlessly queers it:
"Excuse me while I kiss this guy."

It would be easy to dismiss him as a clown, but on closer inspection his work is quite profound. By drawing on a wide range of folksy musical traditions, some of them from outside of pop's usual blues-based tradition, he is implicitly queering history: we were gypsies, cowboys, peasants and immigrants; we were on the Rive Gauche when Picasso and Bunuel were mouthing off homophobia; we were there when everyone else was having fun at the high school prom. He also takes on the fact that the era of the closet is by no means over. It is of course partly a Village People fantasy to sing of gay firemen, jocks and mechanics, but that doesn't mean the real thing isn't out there - or in there, if we are talking closets.

If Jay Spears were taken from us tomorrow, the Bougainvillea Waltz would be his monument. Over a simple busker's guitar-line, he goes off on an entirely silly rhapsody about, yes, bougainvilleas, the sort of thing no ambitious young X-factor contender would dream of risking. It's a moment of madness, pleasure and vulnerability, and only he could get away with it:
"The bougainvilleas are insane this year
Like you, so full so juicy
I wanna reach over there and take a huge bite out of you
And the nectar would run streaming down my chest…"

He has sensibly included the song on both his CDs, the only difference being that a breezy Parisian squeeze-box line has been added for the Playin' On My Team version. A man needs to get his monument right.

Never burn a Jay Spears CD: your friends are going to need the lyric sheet, and will enjoy the cranky graphics (bougainvilleas are a unifying theme). At www.jayspears.com and www.cdbaby.com you can hear extracts of his songs and see a couple of demented videos.

I leave you with a typically fabulous couplet from Smak Dem Christians Down, an instant gay lib classic which should be blasted regularly from rooftops and sung at the end of dinner parties. I would also suggest that Jay Spears CDs be given out in schools with milk and cookies.
"If you wanna live in a theocracy, maybe ya
Ought to move to Saudi Arabia…"

Jay Spears' CDs can be ordered at his website and at CD Baby.

Spears Building a Career on Homo Humor
Written by Heather Kitching   

In 2001, Jay Spears experienced heartbreak for the very first time. And like many musicians who've loved and lost, Spears found solace in songwriting. Unlike most musicians, however, Spears writes a damn funny break-up song. 

"What does he do when I'm feeling blue? Nothin'," he croons on "Nothin'." "What does he say when I've had a bad day? Nothin'"

The song appears on Boy Howdy, Spears' 2002 debut and arguably the wittiest take on dysfunctional gay love most people will ever hear.

That said, Spears wasn't exactly looking for an audience when he first made Boy Howdy. One of those home-made discs made it into the hands of the organizers of the Out Music Awards. Spears was nominated for "Album of the Year" in 2003, and the publicity snowballed from there.   Boy Howdy made the "Best of 2003" list on This Way Out's Audiofile, and a video for his song "I Like Mike" got regular spins on Logo.

Now the newly minted "homo pop" star has released his long-awaited follow-up, Playin' on My Team, featuring songs inspired by, among other things, more failed efforts to find love.    

Like Boy Howdy, Playin' on My Team features ambitious, sometimes hilariously over-the-top arrangements that testify to Spears' background playing in orchestras for theatre productions.   Nowhere is this more evident than on the album's rip-roaring, mercilessly-hooky closer "Smak Dem Christians Down," destined to become one of those songs queers sing along to at the top of their lungs during weekend apartment-cleaning sessions.

Unlike Boy Howdy, Playin' wasn't inspired by a major emotional crisis for Spears, but fortunately every-day gay life seems to provide the comedic songwriter with plenty of raw material. Rice queens, broken gaydar and cheapskate friends all figure into the repertoire.


Jay Spears has a habit of infusing his tunes with a wink and a smile. Many of the songs on his long-awaited second full-length disc "Playin' On My Team" feature his humorous side on prominent display, such as in the title track, the electro-hop of "Drive Time," "Cheapskate," and the wonderful "Smak Dem Christians Down." That's not to say that Spears doesn't have a serious side, as you can hear on "Swept Away" and "Who Is This Guy?"
-- Gregg Shapiro, Chicago Free Press

Oh Hell yeah. (condensed review in10/06's Challenge - GAAMC.org's newsletter)
Reviewer: Bill Stella, Highest Common Denominator
Playin' On My Team scores big by mixing sincerity, fun, and pop music tributes in a breakthrough style of manly homo-pop. Equal measures of humor and melancholy in the lyrics, of tradition and innovation in the songs, combine handsomely. I enjoy the hit parade of pop styles Jay pays tribute to. The title track's harmonies blend with good spirits to remind me of what made The Turtles' music memorable. Contact Ringo Starr's management -- Jay's "I Will Always Love You" should be in his repertoire. (Bonus: A one-off "yeah, yeah, yeah" appears late in the song.) "Who Is This Guy?" might be "I Like Mike" redux: Melancholy morning-after musings, similar strumming as on "Mike", but in a minor key and joined by an unsettled, unsettling fiddling (by Darius Campo) are as beautiful in performance as those inescapable next day questions are unwelcome. It reminds me of the Ringo-featured Beatles song "Don't Let Me Down" if it had transmuted into something unassailably sincere and honest. Jay revises traditional musical forms for his own purposes. "Swept Away" recalls upbeat (but cautionary), country-flavored storysongs. "Hey Arnie" lovingly rips off the banjo intro from Herman's Hermits' "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter", reviving its skiffle style. And there's one from my dream list of "Songs Gay Men Should Cover": The Angels' "My Boyfriend's Back". "Playin'"s standout track is "Drive Time": it brilliantly takes on the Hell that is heavy traffic. The manic rhythm, like Don Henley's Dirty Laundry's "Kick 'em when they're up / Kick 'em when they're down" hook, powers rhythmic, uniquely-shifting spoken vocals over deceptively familiar-sounding dance tracks. As if a Devo tour bus driven by Jon Anderson (Yes) singing baritone, with guests The Bonzo Dog Band onboard had crashed into a studio where Paul McCartney was messing around for hits and giggles, "Drive Time"'s head-on impact is dead funny - and true; the abstract idea elements collide cleanly to release a kind of music concrete. When it's over, it sends me home engaged and delighted and, like a good night out at the game, ready for bed. Manly, yes -- But I like it, too. Oh Hell yeah.

Dear Jay - You've done it again!  "Playin' On My Team" is a fabulous (and important) CD & I thank you so much for not only for writing those terrific tunes (except for "My Boyfriend's Back," of which you deliver a splendid rendition, if you'll excuse the expression), arranging and playing/singing them, and producing this overall gem.  I particularly love the title song, "Sean, Sean," "Drive Time," and "Smak Dem Christians Down" with the great choral part.  The others are notable as well; I loved hearing Ron play his accordion on the album.  Can't wait 2 C the video(s). XXAlix.
-- Alix Dobkin, creatress of seven albums and a songbook in her 40+year career.

 More listener reviews:

Jay Spears: Gay Troubadour and Musical Alchemist Extraodinaire!
Once again, Jay Spears brings joy and romance, love and laughter to his music loving audience. But this time he spices it all up with a dash of socio-political satire and "religious" fervor. He also takes a few "oldie goldie" 60s hits and gives them a good gay spin, literally and figuratively. This man has talent! Yet despite his musical bravura and stylish bravado, he's still just one darn nice, normal gay guy. When it comes to Jay, what's not to like! -- Greg

Jay -- I already have the hard copy, and just have to say that My Boyfriend's Back and Christian Smackdown are both fantastic. So is the rest of the album, but those two are my faves. Keep it up! -- AHL

Jay -- Totally 100% outstanding!  Absolutely loved "Smak Dem Christians Down".  Almost fell off my chair while clapping and laughing.  In fact I liked it so much I just sent an email (copied below) to the Yahoo e-group of my church (Broadway United Methodist Church of Chicago).  I'm sure it will be a hit, as most of us are worn down and frazzled in our battle with the so-called evangelical, right wing conservative faction of our denomination (why do I always want to spell that "demonization"?).
Once again, you've done us proud!  A thousand (and more) Thank You's. -- Greg, Chicago

Felicitations, Jay! Thanks for sending the new disc which has been getting heavy rotation chez moi. "My Belinda" is really clever and so is the freeway song. Also like the Herman's Hermits guitar lick on "Arnie"...and of course I'm always glad to hear about Christians getting "smakked" around :) -- Ron Romanovsky
Ron is half of Romanovsky & Phillips, who brought gay music mainstream in the '80s & 90's with seven albums.

Love it--and my first thought is how much of your music makes me smile and even laugh out loud, which is so welcome right now. You don't shy away from serious issues, there's depth to what you do, but somehow you make it a bit cracked and easier to deal with. I love the density of your lyrics, and the individual way you deliver them.
Right off the bat I was struck by many of the rich guitar moments, background harmonies, Kim Williams' opening on "Smak Dem Christians Down" (a song I immediately connected with that is long overdue), and especially the violin work on "Who is This Guy?" (I'm a sucker for great fiddlin')--some beautiful/funny/inspiring work, and I'm sure I'll connect even more as I hear the songs on repeat listens.
And the almost-nekkid pictures of your hot bod should be a sales plus, too! -- Gerry, CA

Well now, I did something I rarely do and that is order on line, but I was so anxious to get your new CD I couldn't wait to call and order it from CD Baby over the phone.  I took advantage of the site and gave a listen to excerpts from the album.  Much to my surprise and pleasure what do I hear but your rendition of one of the girl classics from the 60's, "My Boyfriend's Back".  I always knew that would make a great gay song.  Now I don't feel so weird doing '60s Karaoke. 
You are truly now a man after my own heart.  Next CD you have to do the gay boy's lament over dating a bisexual, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to" or the haunting "Johnny Angel". -- Kev

Jay, Playing on my Team KICKS ASS. It rocks. I love it, can't wait to get the cd. Erlin, NY

Hi Jay, my Jay Spears CD/DVD bundle arrived in the mail yesterday and I'm just as pleased as can be!! Nice touch with the autographed DVD holder -- thanks, Jay!
I really like how the album "Playin' On My Team" compliments your other album "Boy Howdy" so well. There is continuity in everything from the packaging to same wide variety of rhythms, instruments, emotions, etc. The fold-out lyrics sheet with a certain hunky image in the background is nicely done for both albums. And I love the credit at the end of the "Hey, Arnie" lyrics. ;-)
Once again, there are TONS of subtleties to appreciate, the more I hear each song. Right away, I picked up on the "wallet" phrase in "Cheapskate", harkening back to that reference in "Oh Hell". Cheers to you! -- Mike, MO

So like I'm driving like a NASCAR nut to Palm Springs. I had resisted the temptation playing your new CD until I could listen to it in one sitting. So there I am in the middle of the desert, and a familiar Herman's Hermits guitar riff gets going. NTS, I'm laughing my ass off. And My Boyfriend's back just made me snort on the water I was chugging. Hey, let's not forget your tribute to DaVinci on the disc graphics...you ol' beefbo you. -- Larz, Mission Viejo

Hey Jay! Phil, the boys and I just returned from a weekend in Chicago and were thrilled to open our mailbox and find "Playin' On My Team"!  The kids were so excited that you had recorded a whole second album. We burst out laughing at Cheapskate and then laughed with a bit of "we're going to hell" fervor over the brilliant Smak Dem Christians Down.  Oh my lord, what great songwriting!  Glad to have some new Jay treats and we hope you are doing well! -- Brian, Phil, Max & Spencer; WI
P.S. Thrilled to have Bougainvillea Waltz on with the back-up...we love that version!

Jay, my but the playin' on "Playin' On..." is superb. Krist on a crutch, but you can sting those strings! Thanks for sending the disc my way. It's in heaviest rotation mode in my car now, and I am constantly grabbing the Jewel Box to see who played what. I will soon crash. I am partial to 'Arnie' for its shuffle beatiness, but am just wild about My Belinda and am singing it to myself all of the time. Annie is the best bass singer I have ever heard. Not a dud tune on the thing and a cheerier cheekier Jay-y-er disc does not exist. Kudos to Yudos. More Jay on wax is a very very good thingie. -- Brad, L.A.

The five-star rating I've given is because: 1) your new album is FINALLY here, and 2) just based on the samples I heard, DUDE! You did the unthinkable! You TOPPED yourself! (Oh...should I rephrase that...? Hehheh...) But just based on what I heard between the title cut and "Smak Dem Krischuns (MY spelling) Down", my order will be in yer hot little...I mean hot BIG hands by this week's end! I can't wait to put together a folder of my faves from both albums on my new MP3 player...And I thought that "I Like Mike" was the best song you'd ever done...D-OH! Thanks again, Jay, and I'm still waiting to see you live and in the hunky 'beef-bo' flesh!--Donny N., Arlington, VA.

Got the new cd today - listened to it twice on the ride home from work (commute was hell - but the cd in the stereo made it ok!) - all I can say is "wow".  You've outdid yourself.  Several songs have become instant new favorites, in fact I just caught myself hummng "My Boyfriend's Back"!  Didn't think the Angels original could be improved upon, but I think you've done it.  -- Mike, VA

"It's a joy, an absolute joy from the opening chords of the opening song it leaps out of the speakers. Fine songwriting, fine performances all fired with an unignorable joie de vivre and lifeaffirming exhuberance. Without hesitation I warmly recommend a recent discovery from my 6 Music Evening Sequence show: JAY SPEARS. I like Jay's album "Boy Howdy" so much that if you buy it from his website and don't agree, you can post it on to me at PO BOX 3185 London SW18 3JG and I'll refund your money personally!"
-- Tom Robinson, BBC6

"What's Not To Like?"
If Leonard Cohen had a younger, gay brother with a polar opposite worldview of his older, gloomier big bro, an ear for melodies, an arch and witty way with a lyric and a mean-fingerpickin', folk/rock style on guitars, and let him run loose in the studio, BOY HOWDY would be the end result! Catchy love songs about ex-boyfriends and dating new ones? Who'da THUNK??? But there's so much more to this album than just that. Nope, Jay is no Pavarotti, but with songs this good, you'll be paying much more attention to the self-effacing wit and heartfelt touches he applies; from the jaunty "MY RAY" and the infectious call-and-response/jockboy vibe of "I LIKE MIKE", to the surprisingly touching message behind "POSITIVE," and the sad sweetness of "LULLABY FOR BEA," and the hopefulness of "YOU WILL LOVE AGAIN." No matter who you are and who you happen to be in love (or lust) with right at this moment, one listen to Jay's debut and the only thing you'll be asking yourself about this guy is "What's Not To Like?"
-- dcscribe (Arlington, VA.)

The Other Spears
No relation to that other blond bombshell known as Britney, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Jay Spears is just the kind of troubadour that the gay world needs.  The comical slice-of-life pieces on Spears' acclaimed debut, "Boy Howdy", perfectly capture his easygoing West Coast sensibility, all the while making nods to the men he's loved and sometimes lost.
But don't think that these are merely sentimental romantic numbers. The classic guy's guy, Spears writes and sings from a jockish, happy-go-lucky perspective, though he's also skeptical about the macho-man mentality.  (In fact, it's Jay's gay softball team that's currently brought him to the Eastern U.S. for the National Championship and a late summer tour.)
"My Ray" is the first in a string of tunes named after those special men whom Spears has encountered.  Against a '50s doo-wop backdrop, he aims his arrow for the heart of a "big strong chango" in a love song that's like no other: "He didn't show up for our date at the zoo/ 'Cause he got a bad haircut, what can you do?/ He said he loves me when he called me today/ That's why I love my Ray."  The chanting sports anthem "I Like Mike" finds a hunky teammate at the center of Spears' affections, while "Cryin' over Brian" follows the path of a heartbreaking heartthrob right to Jay's bed.
Spears' musings aren't always so lighthearted, though.  "Positive" takes a sobering look at how HIV status can affect potential relationships. Despite its honest resolution ("So now we're pals and I tell you no lie/ I hope he finds a beautiful positive guy"), the track has caused some controversy among listeners.  Such is the dilemma of difficult themes that deal with volatile emotions, and Spears triumphs by inviting people to think about the issues in a way that's moving and real.  (9 out of 10)
-- Jason Roush, Boston Bay Windows

A Los Angeles singer/songwriter/string player whose tongue is most definitely in cheek when it's not occupied with other pursuits, Jay Spears offers a unique, thoroughly delightful, and more than occasionally wry take on life. The voice itself will hardly earn him a Met audition, but his brash presentation and go get 'em lyrics definitely push this disc to the top of the chart.
It's hard to pick favorites. "I Like Mike" (What's Not to Like? He's the best darn thing to come down the pike) is more of a chant than a song, with a peanut-gallery chorus echoing phrases such as "He's always playing hardball, that's my Mike". If Mike's got "an attitude bordering on brattitude," it reflects Spears' own, which adds to the fun. "Positive" is one of the finest songs about the stickiness of status disclosure yet written, while "You Will Love Again" and "Lullaby for Bea" are disarmingly tender. Ending with "Oh Hell!" and "House on Fire" (a great big beef-bo caught my eye, And soon the sparks began to fly), Boy Howdy is a cheering affirmation of gay love.
-- JASON VICTOR SERINUS (The New York Blade, North Carolina's Q-Notes, The Washington Blade, The Southern Voice, San Diego Update, The Gay Outlook)

I was one of the judges in Out Song Of The Year and your work is in a completely different league from everything else I heard.
You have a wonderful sureness of touch: lines like "He's got an attitude bordering on bratitude, give the boy some latitude" or "I dropped my wallet in the toilet" are as great as anything by Dylan or Eminem. In conception and execution your tracks had such huge exhuberance, originality and sheer joie de vivre I was grinning all over my face with enjoyment.
I present a new music show on 6 Music for BBC Digital Radio three hours a night, four nights a week. I could play a song of yours right alongside The Strokes or Busta Rhymes or Ani Di Franco without a word of explanation - and get listener e-mails clamouring to know who the hell you are.  In fact, as soon as your CD arrives I intend to.
All the best, TOM ROBINSON, BBC6

From the beginning, you know this is different: irreverent, funny, in-your-face, and downright personal. Jay Spears hits many marks with his over-the-top lyrics and catchy-camp musical style. Dealing with everyday themes, some which are rarely discussed with any honesty, Spears shows us we can face the music so to speak and still maintain a sense of humor. Overall the entire CD is a rare listen, filled with good times and thought-provoking lyrics. Hmmm, can we really think and have fun at the same time??? You can when Jay Spears is guiding the train. -- LEN ROGERS, StoneWall Society

More listener reviews:

I just saw your "I Like Mike" video-what a refreshing, fun, and great song. A guy likes a guy and sings about it in a guy kind of way. It's a great fun song and Ilike it. -- David, ME

Not since, maybe, Randy Newman, have I heard a body of work so packed with unique songs. You certainly have a refreshing and knowing view on the world... and the talent to express it. And I'm amazed at the ease and fun with which you write about same-sex love. It's usually treated as such a heavy thing. My personal favorite by far is "Nothin'". It's wonderful. And "I Like Mike" almost killed me when I started laughing out loud during a press at the gym (I brought along my Walkman that day). Again, you've got an amazing mind. Thanks for letting us all inside it. -- MITCH GALLOB, Streeter Music

Funny at times, heartfelt at others, but always entertaining.
The style of Jay's music is his real success. Earthy, real and gutsy describe not only his wonderfully authentic voice, but his beautiful words and sentiment. Whether it's an ex-beau, his mom or a current squeeze, his words bring smiles and tears. His is the most real music I've heard in a long time. You'll love every melody, every word and every rhyme! -- ME in OKC

The Hills are alive!
Jay Spears' Boy Howdy is simply good music that touches every gay man in the heart. Fun melodies, fabulous lyrics, and a voice you can fall in love with. -- M. Ramsey

How many songwriters these days are actually witty?
Boy Howdy is hilarious and has been glued to my CD players for a week. And not only do you get great lyrics, but also fabulous sax arrangements and back-up vocals. It's mostly euphoric but has some richly emotional moments, such as the unlisted last track &endash; a deranged classic. This is something that I can play to my muso friends, my gay friends and my friends who appreciate quality and need to know that an insane homosexual pop star with a rough-and-ready voice and a drum machine is making some of the most interesting stuff around.
Robert Farrar, East Sussex UK Jay Spears Fan Club President

Perfect balance between fun and melancoly. Melodic geniality.
Not many artists manage to balance between seriousness and ironic fun the way Jay Spears does. At first some songs on Boy Howdy are just plain fun but underneath an ironic and sometimes downright tragic reality appears. Just like in life itself. But it is not forced in any way, which means that you can take it to you if you want or choose just to see the irony and laugh about it. Musically Boy Howdy is completed by the smart melodies and often unexpected harmonic turns. Jay Spears has a healthy disrespect for the conventional singer/songwriter-idiom. That in combination with interesting arrangements overshadows the occasionally lame and poor drum-programming, which I on the other hand know attracts some people. To sum it up. Boy Howdy is the best that has happened to the genre in a long time. Buy the record and help spread good music.
-- Per Fredrik Larsson (Sweden)

WARNING! Do not listen to this album if you insist on being in a bad mood!
The music is varied and refreshingly unfashionable - clumsy hip-hop via 60s pop to Purcellian chant. Although each song is rather surprising, Boy Howdy is following a red thread - the songs are mainly about taking things as they are and making the best of life (and death). The lyrics are as ambivalent as the music is: A little tongue in cheek, a little self irony, high handedness, cruelty, sadness, sensibility and sheer bestial beauty filling up to three hankies (sniff...). Perfect for intensive listening and as perfect as background for Sunday's breakfasts. -- Mianek