Daddy B. Nice’s CD Reviews 2022
January 1, 2022
THE JAY MORRIS GROUP: Long Story Short (Jay Morris Group)
Five Stars ***** Can’t Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.
The Jay Morris Group hails from Greenwood, Mississippi. The group consists of brother Jay Morris and sister K. Monique (“same mom, same dad” Jay adds) and Jay’s best friend Zee Brownlow. In September of 2018 their first single, Ms. Wendy, charted on Daddy B. Nice’s Top 10 “Breaking” Southern Soul Singles under the artist title Jay Morris featuring Mario Brownlow. Subsequently, the song was released as “4 Fa 4” by the Jay Morris Group and went on to collect over 5 million views on its various YouTube pages.
Meanwhile, a companion single, “Happy Weight,” was released and became equally popular, charting on Daddy B. Nice’s Singles in January of 2020. Both songs catered to a subject dear to southern soul fans: that weight and heft in a woman can be beautiful and sexy. Both songs were rolled into a bountiful, sixteen-song collection titled Like Food To My Soul, published in 2019.
And yet, as popular as “4 Fa 4” and “Happy Weight” became, their fame was eclipsed by the new single, “Knee Deep,” a sensitive ballad sung by Zee Brownlow exploring the nuances between friendship and love. The tune blew up its YouTube page, gaining some 12 million views on its official music video. “Knee Deep” struck chords with the audience no southern soul song had accomplished since Bishop Bullwinkle’s “Hell Naw To The Naw Naw,” catapulting the Jay Morris Group to headliner status on the chitlin’ circuit.
Now comes the Jay Morris Group’s second album, Long Story Short, and it is a revelation. Both in style and substance, Long Story Short picks up where Like Food To My Soul left off, continuing the story of “Knee Deep” with the “bad dream” of thoughts of “her with another man”. “I don’t like the way that feels,” Zee Brownlow sings. He doesn’t want to be a “hater,” but his feelings overwhelm him as he watches the new boyfriend kneeling in front of his former enamored with a ring in hand. “I want to see her happy,” Zee confesses, “but not happy with him.” “Still knee deep in my feelings,” looking at things from the outside. The song is called “Knee Deep Part II,” and it kicks off the new album.
But wait. The Jay Morris Group isn’t lacking for inspiration by focusing on the past (and their most successful tune). They’re just getting started. And if you thought the short stories contained in the songs on FOOD FOR MY SOUL couldn’t possibly get any better, you would be wrong. In “My Baby Don’t Love Me No More” Jay Morris not only describes another heartfelt relationship gone south but embeds it in an original instrumental track as good or better than “Knee Deep’s”. And just when you think the tune might flag, KMonique cuts in with a verse from the women’s perspective. “They say a woman loves too early, and a man too late,” and she goes on to explain her progress from romance to mere familiarity just the way women do in real life, and suddenly you realize this album is dealing with reality in ways you’ve seldom heard on record.
If there’s one fear skeptics will entertain as this album proceeds, it’s along the lines of sheer awe. Like, “I don’t know how long they can keep it up…” Meaning: creating these vivid, intricately-told, above all realistic stories within songs. And yet, one by one, the new songs demolish those fears. “How Can You Love Me” is just what the album advertises, a “long story short”. And although told from the man’s perspective, the finely-toned KMonique comes in with the woman’s point of view in the end. Those interludes—about as close to a formula as Jay Morris gets—provide exquisite contrast.
And for those worried that the melodies and instrumental tracks might get repetitive under all those airy harmonies and wordy monologues, “How Can You Love Me” has a great instrumental sound—an idiosyncratic guitar lick clucking over a traditional piano’s chording, reserving the more familiar, high-pitched, Jay Morris-style keyboard/organ for the choruses.
Ironically, for a vocal trio who profess not to play any of the musical instruments on their records, the Jay Morris Group has an interesting, competent, live-feeling, instrumental sound. “Send Me That Cashapp” begins almost like an acapella track but morphs into a gracefully textured musical background.
“Still Pay The Bills” uses that familiar fuzzy, treble-clef, almost kazoo-like, keyboard-organ sound we associate with the group. The song is a typical southern soul message, but for the Jay Morris group it almost sounds overly simplistic. “Southern Soul Party,” featuring Jeter Jones, sounds better now than when it came out a year ago.
But the latter tunes are relative filler in an album that obsesses in the day-to-day confrontations between the sexes, songs like “Give Me Some Credit” and “It Sounds Like I’m Lying”. Is it any wonder the group has attracted legions of fans? Like some modern-day Dylan, they’re talking about things that normally aren’t addressed in song, and they make it work musically. And yet, so talky! So many words. So many thoughts. After awhile you’re excused for thinking you’re the Jay Morris Group’s psychiatrist, psychologist and/or spiritual healer, with them sprawled on your couch, talking stream-of-consciousness.
But it’s great. It’s different. It’s original. Not to make any literal comparisons, but it did remind me of when I was young, and how we looked forward to each new Beatles album because we knew it was going to be different and exciting. It’s kinda like that with this sophomore disc from Jay Morris. You want to hear what they’ve come up with. Soulful, original, apparently without antecedent (although they pay tribute to southern soul stars at discreet moments), this music appears to be nothing less than a new blues for the younger generation.
—Daddy B. Nice
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