Soul Searching: Doug Jayne pays homage to the Beatles’ ‘Rubber Soul.’
With a Little Help
Doug Jayne gets by quite well
By Karl Byrn
The first kick you’ll get from Doug Jayne’s solo disc, It Looks Like She’s Going on a Trip, is the cover. It’s designed as a perfect copy of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, from the front’s evergreen background and psychedelic distortion, right down to the exact cropping and positioning of family photos inside.
But the real pleasure is the disc itself: a robust, easy-going stew of original blues shuffles, country-folk reflections, rock workouts, and jazz, bluegrass, and Tex-Mex nuances that features a notable array of local talent.
The Rubber Soul cover, Jayne says, is his tribute to “where I came from. . . . My brother and I listened to that album on our dad’s stereo the day it was released. I was 10, and it was my first serious musical jaw-drop. If that moment didn’t happen, I could be asking, ‘You wanna super-size that?’ instead of working in the music business.”
Thanks to that “musical jaw-drop,” Jayne did end up as a luminary in the Sonoma County music scene. He’s co-owner of the Last Record Store, host of KRCB radio’s Connections on Wednesday nights, and head of Jackalope Records (on which he plans to release a “Live from the Powerhouse” series of discs to benefit KRCB).
Jayne also plays in various local bands, so naturally his bandmates helped flesh out his solo disc. Bassist Dean Wilson and reed man Ari Camarota play with Jayne in Stupid White People. Bassist (and cover designer) Robert Malta plays with Jayne in Loser Friendly. His current band, Laughing Gravy, lent the skills of dobro, banjo, and mandolin player Kevin Russell (whose own solo disc, You Don’t Know Me, was recently released on Jackalope), accordion player and keyboardist Ron Stinnett (also of the Ruminators), and vocalists Allegra Broughton and Sam Page (also of Solid Air).
Jayne is particularly pleased with some contributions from new players: drummer Gary Silva, who plays with Norton Buffalo and Elvin Bishop, and vocalists Jackie Payne and Gail Muldrow, from Johnny Otis’ band.
Charlie Musselwhite brings the project world-class name recognition, blowing harmonica on the humorous “Leafblower Blues” and self-explanatory “Is this the Blues.” Jayne notes with a fan’s enthusiasm that “over the years, [Musselwhite] has mastered how to use his brilliant harp playing like a master chef uses spices. The stuff he does with Tom Waits and the Blind Boys of Alabama is awesome. I’m thrilled to have him play with me!”
Co-producer Harry Gale also anchors the disc with crisp and tasteful guitar leads. He’s twangy on the title track, biting on the blues cuts, and almost echoes Mark Knopfler on the rockers.
Of course, the disc’s center is Jayne. He sings in a steady yet somewhat melancholy-soaked tenor that vaguely recalls Warren Zevon or Dave Alvin. And while the Americana-kitchen-sink of styles suggests the diversity of Taj Mahal, Jayne’s lyrics create a single vision in which somber and sad themes must be handled with humor. On the pedal-steel caressed “Lonesome State,” cheesy B-movies are the solace for lost love. On “Running Lightly Down the Road,” a man notices his lover’s “chubby little rear” as she runs from their burning house.
The disc moves from a first half of girl-leaves-guy quandaries (“I realized after the fact that I had created sort of a mini concept album of break-up songs,” Jayne says) to a second half tackling big-picture universals. “Nothing in this Life Stays Long” is an imagistic, dreamlike piece of desperation written when Jayne’s mother died. “Just Like Home” draws resigned wisdom from an afternoon Jayne spent with his two sons skipping stones on the Russian River.
“Safety of Our Cars” closes the disc with casual social commentary (“We feel safe with that metal all around us / as if four wheels could make our lives less bizarre”). Its small dig at the president–written when Bush Sr. was in office–is still timely. “I had no interest in updating or rewriting it to address the [cell-phone driver rudeness] thing of the new millennium,” he notes.
So what’s next? “I’m going to try to break mine and Kevin’s discs on a national level,” Jayne says. “It’s tough to be a ‘local artist’!” Thanks to Rubber Soul, and with a little help from his friends, Jayne is much more.
It Looks Like She’s Going on a Trip is available at the Last Record Store, 739 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707.525.1963.
From the January 9-15, 2003 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.