The first I ever learned of Matthew Jay was from the giant overhead screen in the Oasis food area of the Meaodowhall shopping complex in Sheffield as he weaved his magical way through the dreamy, wintry video to ‘Please Don’t Send Me Away’. Why I have the memory of it at all – I don’t know – as I didn’t come across him again until I read his obituary in a national newspaper. What I do know is that I was sitting there that day with my wife, our four-year old daughter and our swaddling newborn. We were having a MacDonald’s. An ordinary family, doing an ordinary thing and feeling that same ordinary sense of wellbeing that is only usually derived from having those closest to you right alongside of you. It was a brief, momentary pleasure, but it is one that I have often recalled when the storm clouds gather and my head swings wildly between hopelessness and elation. I mention this not in any way as to suggest I had a premonition of Matthew’s tragic and untimely future (as hindsight has a habit of rendering profound even the most casual of events) but because that same sense of family is what still holds Matthew’s musical life together, even if it was not ultimately to help that rather ordinary day in September 2003.
Released by Jay’s family as a memorial to the singer-songwriter, ‘…too soon’ marks the first of anniversary of Matthew’s death with a collection of early recordings and rarities. The lead track ‘Louie’ has special significance to Matthew’s mother Hilary, who had a premonition of his death two weeks before she lost her dearly loved son. She says, ‘Matthew would never have intentionally broken his mothers heart. One day we may all learn the truth about that night but until then, just listen to the words of this song’. Also included is ‘Sunday’ featuring Matthew’s brother Eddy on accordion.
Whatever the truth of that evening last year, ‘…too soon’ at least offers the certainty of a broad and enigmatic talent. Debut album ‘Draw’ elicited comparisons to everyone from Elliott Smith to Nick Drake although this early body of work is more effortlessly joyful than either. Vocally tremulous and intimate, his melodies spin the most mysterious of webs that are more often than not delicately layered, even fragile affairs. You’re not exactly sure what he means; but you’re sure of it all the same; the inclusion of the original demo to the tender, amusing and sublime ‘Four Minute Rebellion’ ensuring a place for Jay in any alternative hall of fame.
Fans will delight at rare remixes of ‘Please Don’t Send Me Away’ from Bent and ‘Drawing Circles’ from Fug whilst scores of the unconverted will drew instant reward from tracks like ‘I Hope She’s Alright’ and the brightly skipping ‘Sunday’.
I’ll always remember that day in Meadowhall, and for this I’ll remember Matthew Jay. What a damn fine day it was.
The album is exclusively available through www.matthewjay.com.share this: