Jay Bolotin

Brought up on a farm near Lexington, Kentucky, Jay Bolotin picked up guitar from the migrant sharecroppers drifting in from Appalachian foothills and all points south. Relocating to the Rhode Island School of Design in 1969, he found the patients he’d performed to in the mental institutions back home more attentive than the coffeehouse set. However, Bolotin found a fan and a friend in Kenny Lyons. Lyons and his Tombstone Blues Band, recently signed to Columbia, took Bolotin under their wing, putting him on bills and showing him the trail to ABC Paramount’s offices.

After a hasty signing and a breakneck studio session, Jay Bolotin’s debut album was assigned a catalog number and promptly shelved. Through circumstances still tangled to this day, the album was acquired by the dubious Commonwealth United label, issued and subsequently deleted shortly thereafter as the company went belly up for undetermined reasons. “Dear Father” is a stirring confessional in the Leonard Cohen mode that flies awfully close to the Canadian poet’s sun—though unwittingly—with its arpeggio guitar, dancing bass line, and matter-of-fact delivery.

Undeterred by the album’s struggles, Bolotin hit the road and headed south, skipping Kentucky and beelining for Nashville. His homegrown sound attracted real fans, and he settled, as word spread, into a circle of songwriters that included Mickey Newbury and Kris Kristofferson, that latter of whom produced a few recordings intended for Bolotin’s follow-up. Jay’s recording career faltered, but he earned bread scratching out hits for the likes of David Allen Coe and Dan Fogelberg. Curiously, Bolotin never mentioned his debut to anyone, nor did he play those songs in concert. Forgotten like a police report from a politician’s wild youth, Bolotin’s first and only LP is more mystery than history, and more fascinating because of it.

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