Earlier this month, Northwest Territories singer-songwriter Leela Gilday released “North Star Calling,” her first new work in almost five years. This album was featured here, and proved popular with fellow GDW writer Steve Murphy, who described it as “a polished and tenderly produced record … [with] a beautifully layered tapestry of sounds.” Hearing this album for myself, I fully agree that this is a stunning collection of songs, and in hindsight, wish that I’d collared this one to review myself.
Fortunately, for me, Leela has a sibling who is as equally and passionately gifted when it comes to music and song. Jay Gilday, also from Yellowknife, NWT, but now calling Edmonton, AB, home, first came to our attention last year when invited to perform at the prestigious Philadelphia Folk Festival. Blessed with some phenomenal fingerpicking guitar skills, it is Gilday’s voice that commands your attention. Whether lured by his soft, soulful delivery, or grabbed by his periodic bouts of raw, raspy cries, Jay Gilday impressed enough to have us making a mad dash to the merchandise tent to pick up a copy of his 2016 “Faster Than Light” album before returning home.
Call it sibling rivalry, or call it just coincidence, but Jay Gilday has mirrored his sister’s timing, releasing his third studio album, “The Choice and the Chase,” earlier this month too. Not leaving this one for the enjoyment of my fellow GDW team, I made sure to sneak this one under the table with a refusal to share until now. Produced by Scott Franchuk of Riverdale Recorders Ltd in Edmonton, Gilday returns with ten original compositions that perfectly continue where “Faster Than Light” left off, albeit with the deliberate removal of electrification this time around. A little more intimate, the addition of occasional keyboards and wind instruments are muted purposely in the background, allowing Jay’s vocals and sole acoustic guitar to remain front and center.
This intimate side of Gilday’s music is captured perfectly from the opening track, “All I Have Is All I Give,” boasting just the soft spoken vocals and simple guitar chords, before some subdued keys and slight intensity in his voice raise this to another level. “So Brand New” is equally as intimate in delivery, but also showcases one of Jay’s unique strengths: an ability to use his vocal pipes as an additional instrument. From quiet, soulful “ooh’s” to raw, growling cries, Gilday has the gift of natural audible effects at his disposal. And just as we encountered on his previous album, Jay is not shy in using these skills, as witnessed on both “On Your Own” and “Carry Me,” the latter offering a great country-folk sound that combines the influences of early Gordon Lightfoot and modern day William Prince.
Fans of Jay’s more upbeat nature shall not be disappointed with this new release. “Take a Little Piece of my Heart” sees some great rhythm courtesy of Brendan Cameron’s organ skills. Ever dominant with the vocals, the accompaniment really gives this a fun and light flavor. Ditto with “You Make Me Want to Close My Eyes,” where Gilday is credited for providing the lively key strokes, and adds some stunning vocal harmonies from the trio of Alex Vissia, Andrea Vissia, and Emily Bachynski. And for those of you who loved the electric guitars on the previous release, go ahead and skip to “She Goes Out Running” for a short-lived, but very welcome return to Gilday’s customary sound. “Running Wild” is as close to perfection as it gets for a modern folk song, Jay using his audible instrument alongside some great Peruvian flavored pipes that bring this one to life.
Each and every song on this album is outstanding, but if tasked with selecting one that stands out from the pack, “On Into the Wind” would be my choice. From the fun and simple chord progressions courtesy of his guitar, Jay is clearly having fun with this foot-tapper. And come on, listen carefully and smile at how he carefully weaves the word lackadaisical into the opening verse; not something that you hear too often. “I see your heart, lackadaisical looking for company / And your reason for not staying didn’t mean much when you left your friends in need / It goes on and on my darling, on into the wind.” We caught a live performance of this track recently from Jay, and left once again in awe of his passionate presence and emotionally charged voice. If you appreciate raw and brutally honest music from an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter, giving “The Choice and the Chase” a spin is a highly recommended place to start.