Jay Psaros, in his new CD, The Trees Beyond The Town, shines with an ineffable charm. Psaros has a light touch that is inexplicably appealing, something in between the notes that is unique to him. He keeps it politely understated, allowing his backing musicians to offer fine swells of sound around him that perfectly match his mellow, low key presence.
Opening cut “Dear Jane” gets a rustic flavoring from Kevin Barry’s lap steel, a haunting melody that feels out on the range, forlorn. Psaros applies his sweetly handsome voice with a firmness that affirms the sincerity of his emotionally honest lyrics. Voice and instruments weave a lilting, tuneful number here, one that strikes the listener with its melodies as well as its vulnerability.
“Strangers Again” finds Psaros coming in with a lofty skip. His voice floats just above everything else in this considerate dandy. He caresses his lyrics as he presses forward with verve, his voice coaxing the difficult scenario he sings with, getting it up front and center. Beneath his voice he has Kevin Barry’s plaintive lead guitar whistle and Sam Kassirer’s sweet organ puffs. These elements and approaches come together in a lovely confection of a song.
“Hold On My Love” feels more like traditional singer-songwriter fare. Psaros gets a firm acoustic guitar strum beneath his considerately expressed voice. His handsome vocal, with again a kind of ineffable charm, carries through this song like a friendly guide. He performs on a lofty level, and enhances this song’s warmth and tenderness with Sam Kassirer’s piano line and synthesizer effects as well as a sweet harmony vocal from Deni Hlavink. This combination of smooth vocal with ripples of touching instrumentation turns this one into a winsome experience for the listener as well as an effective expression of a feeling.
“Coming Up The River” gets more of a chugging engine push from the rhythm section of drummer Lorne Entress and upright bass player Jesse Williams. Dobro, Wurlitzer, and a Hammond organ pepper it with even more flinty notes. Psaros could sell this piece to a music supervisor because he creates an emotion that could fit many scenes and the many moving parts here feel like they are carrying us through a pivotal scene in someone‘s life. The Psaros vocal approach wraps itself around the mid tempo jaunt with the same aplomb of his subtle songwriter material. The chorus is also catchy in a sly manner that just grows on you.
“Only Love” is the most tender, sentimental piece on this album. Ringing with pretty but sad pedal steel tones and dark, moody piano, this one cries out to be heard. Layer Psaros’ lilting vocal over this and we have another effective piece. His voice, self-restrained, contrast brilliantly and brightly against the crying wail of the pedal steel line.
“Think I’m Gonna Get it” skips forward with a pull from Lorne Entress’s shaker, a percussive pulse here. Polite bits of guitar draw one in further and Psaros’ vocal decorates it with its subtle presence. This song’s combination of lightness and push make it catchy and alluring.
“Anything At All” has a fullness of pedal steel, organ, and more that makes it come out of the speakers with a three dimensional force. A snappy guitar line jumps, twists, turns, moving with a slippery appeal. With that in the back drop, Psaros only needs to apply his usual understated aplomb. He sings without having to make an effort at sentiment yet remains sentimental. It’s a gift that works well for this singer-songwriter.
Psaros and his players close out with the twangy, sprawling title track “The Trees Beyond The Town.” Psaros uses a mellow approach to finesses his lyrical descriptions of life as sweet acoustic notes play around his vocal. One can feel a tremendous amount of emotion even though the vocal and accompaniment are sparse, understated.
Psaros offers his listeners another winning disc of his particularly good and unique approach. By keep things quiet, understated, and unpretentious he reaches higher levels of expression than on previous recordings, and that is saying something. Drummer Lorne Entress produced and mixed this disc utilizing both at Harmony Street in Tolland, Connecticut as well as Great North Sound Society in Parsonfield, Maine. Entress’s work, as usual, counts for at least some of an album’s success for the shine he gets out of each instrument and vocal.