Finding a future path
Sally Jaye sifts through her past to celebrate her roots and ‘Amarillo’
By Bliss 11/01/2007
Singer-songwriter Sally Jaye’s new album “Amarillo” is sweet validation of the old saw that if nothing else, tough times can at least breed good songs: The disc brims with evocative, neatly observed stories clearly drawn from life, all set to graceful melodies and hooks that stick with you. It’s a hard-hewn gem mined from Jaye’s own personal trials — and stories from her mother’s journal.
“The time in my life when I was writing those songs was a big period of transition for me,” Jaye explains. “I had split up with a person I’d been with for a really long time, and I was the keyboard player in his band (Paper Sun). So when we split up, not only did I lose a relationship but I was out of the band too.”
Jaye’s dusky voice is well suited to funkier rock rhythms, but taking the leap from the safety of an ensemble also enabled her to finally make the kind of music she feels she’s “supposed to be doing.”
“It was kind of like somebody took an eraser to the chalkboard and just erased everything and said, ‘Start over,’” she recalls. “So I did a lot of thinking about my childhood and about all of the unusual things about my family, and people in my family and things they had overcome. The record starts out about that, and then it moves into my moving to California and the things that I’ve had to go through.”
Born in Georgia, Jaye relocated to LA six years ago after some time in Nashville, where she didn’t feel she fit in musically. After breaking with Paper Sun
she started writing the songs that eventually wound up on “Amarillo.” Her music’s earthier, with an inviting folk feel that earned comparisons to Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch, and richly expresses her attachment to her Southern roots. Two of her most compelling story songs, “Miss Ater” and “750 One Dollar Bills,” were inspired by her mom’s stories about their family and racism, poverty and the local culture.
But it’s Jaye’s own journeys that inform her most emotionally penetrating songs, including “When the Cocaine Wears Off” and her uplifting anthem “Georgia You Were Right.” Many of her protagonists seem to have arrived at a place of reckoning where they’re sifting through the past in order to forge a new direction forward. “Georgia” appeals not only because of its strong melodic hook, but because so many migrants to California can relate to her “struggle with loving where I’m from; it’s like perpetually having this thing that draws me back to my hometown and the South, but knowing that I need to be here.”