Beginner Mind is a honey-laced, 11-song album that combines folk, country, gospel, and other intimate forms of acoustic music focusing on topics such as the happiness the artist has found in creating a home with his wife and child. From North Caroline, Jay Brown is a blend of James Taylor, Willie Nelson, and Cat Stevens, creating a nostalgic, all-American-sounding album by adding accordion, harmonica, soft and soothing vocals, and the steady accompaniment of an acoustic guitar. Despite what the title of the album suggests, Brown is not new to the music. His lyrics though do reflect an almost innocent, childlike view of the world.
The subject of the opening track, “New Lovin’ Mother”, gives the entire album a certain feeling of newness associated with becoming a new mother, with all the wonders it comes with. The track starts with the sound of a baby crying, which leads into a simple guitar-driven melody accompanied by touching vocals about a baby being born. The song has a country feel to it without losing its folk vibe, and features a harmonica solo. The following “Two Hearts Keepin’ Time” continues the story by painting an intimate picture of family life.
But this happiness came after some difficulty. Brown takes a step back with “Get Your Fill of Feelin’ Hungry”, a contemplative song that expresses gratitude, funnily enough, for being young, hungry, and at the mercy of the elements by focusing on its positive aspects: carefree days of happy solitude. Guitar picking is at the heart of this song which the artist explains was “inspired by thinking back on my years spent in Boone. I lived simply and alone in little old cabins, happily, humbly, and hungrily getting from day to day”.
The album takes a completely different turn with the tongue-in-cheek “Fox News (Help Me Jesus)” featuring, aptly enough, a choir as backup vocals and finishing with a simple “Amen”. The song is exactly what you would deduce from the title: a rundown of the state of news outlets. This song changes the tone somewhat, as Brown then sings in “Rarely Touch the Heart” how losing oneself in one’s beliefs can affect one’s ability to be moved. The melody to “Why Would You Be Anything But Free” is as liberating as the message in the song is, while “Good Old Young Love” is a gospel-tinged duet featuring John Mark and Olivia McGaha. Its melancholy is felt in the next tracks all the way to the closing “Childhood Friends”, an introspective, feel-good song reflecting on the warm memories from his childhood.
Imbued with sounds reminiscent of Americana, Beginner Mind evokes a relaxing evening by a campfire with close friends, where silence is comfortable and laughter often peppers the night. It’s clear that Jay Brown poured his heart and soul into this album to create an inviting, relaxing, and soothing album. More information is available on Jay Brown’s website.
First published here on Blogcritics.