Jay Carlis' "Alive in the Radio Age" & Album Celebration at 118 N. March 24th

Article Contributed by Mixtape Media | Published on Sunday, February 19, 2023

Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jay Carlis will release his sophomore solo album, Alive in the Radio Age, on March 24th.  That night, he will celebrate the album’s debut at 118 N. with his band and will be supported by producer, Ross Bellenoit.  The follow up to Carlis’ acclaimed 2020 LP Here We Are, features eight original Americana tunes filled with rich images and emotionally resonate lyrics. The rawness of his vocals paired with Bellenoit’s arrangements evoke the sonic styles of Jason Isbell and Robert Hunter – two of the songwriter’s greatest influences.

Alive in the Radio Age features performances from area musicians including Bellenoit (guitars, banjo, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals), Andy Keenan (pedal steel), Charlie Muench (bass), Chuck Staab (drums), Jaron Olevsky (piano, backing vocals), Andrea Weber (cello), and Nicole Tecce (backing vocals).  The album was recorded by Doug Raus, mixed by Jeff Hiatt, mastered by Sean Svadlenak, executive produced by Jay Levin all at Philadelphia’s Turtle Studios.

“Alive in the Radio Age is a collection of songs following up on the themes of my last record Here We Are: coming of age, deepening feelings of love and connection, and coming to terms with a changing world,” Carlis says. “About half were written during those strange days of pandemic solitude. ‘Your Shadow’ is a collaboration with a good friend Jill Mclaughlin. ‘Backwards’ was written in February of 2020,” he continues,  “I'm going backwards. Everything's falling apart… I didn't really know what was about to happen, but the song did.”

Alive in the Radio Age kicks off with the driving “Your Shadow” and finds Carlis declaring “I’m in love with your shadow,” alongside Nicole Tecce’s soaring backing vocals and underscored with ringing, reverberating guitars. “Backwards” ruminates on signals crossed, mixed communications and everything falling apart, while the gentle piano and banjo of “Katrina” embrace the natural changes and evolution that come along with long term romantic relationships. The “Ghost of Thomas Wolfe” haunts the songwriter, “Such a Mystery” chronicles a long ago moment out west, and the pedal steel of “Concrete and Stone” finds the songwriter struggling with overwhelming emotions and the inability to express his deepest fears. Of ‘Volcanoes and Whales,’ the songwriter explains, “[it was] written probably 25 years ago by my friend Vanessa Zuber. We used to sing it together when I lived in Tucson, AZ, and I've always kept it close. It is here recorded for the first time.”
The album closes with the sparse “John Perry Barlow” -- a letter to the Grateful Dead lyricist asking him how he’d handle the contemporary political unrest in America with several lyrical and sonic winks to one of the songwriter’s favorite bands.
Jay Carlis hails from the Lehigh Valley and after a stint in his mother’s musical theater troupe, he began songwriting as a teenager. After taking an extended break from songwriting as an adult, Carlis found himself called back to his guitar and notebook and the songs came spilling out. The joy and heartache of marriage and the challenge and celebration of raising young children inform the emotions and storytelling of Carlis’s return to the craft.  His songwriting style developed inspired by the great modern songwriters like Jason Isbell, Josh Ritter, Drive-by-Truckers and Hiss Golden Messenger. In  2017, he was a finalist in the Philadelphia Songwriters Project competition.
Jay Carlis’s musical foundation is steeped in Americana and Folk from his many years covering Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan tunes. As a high-schooler, the songwriter was part of a roving pack of like-minded, guitar-playing kids who sang around campfires at Bear Rocks on the Appalachian Trail, on benches in the Allentown Rose Gardens at night and parking lots of Grateful Dead and Phish shows.
In addition to his solo work, Carlis is lead singer and principal songwriter for The Barrel Fires, a Philly-based rock band. The Barrel Fires have released two EPs, their self-titled debut recorded live at Range Recording Studios in Ardmore and Run Around Years, recorded at Turtle Studios produced by Ross Bellenoit and Doug Raus. The band has performed in various venues throughout the region including the Haverford Music Festival, Milkboy Philly and 118 North in Wayne.  Jay Carlis lives just outside of Philadelphia with his family.

Don’t Miss Jay Carlis’s Album Release Celebration at 118 N on March 24th. Purchase tickets here.