Two years ago Welsh singer-songwriter Jay James Picton was a fitness instructor in the Royal Navy who bought a guitar as a joke. Through a devastating injury, Picton started learning the guitar and from there onwards his beer driven joke turned into a passion, leading him to work with music greats such as Booker T. Jones, John Legend and Malay; who have add their touches to Jay James Picton’s debut album, Play It By Heart.

Whilst discovering and developing his new found talent Picton’s long-term relationship fell apart, and his experience of the relationship is expressed soulfully throughout his album, offering pop/folk/rock vocals with soulful sensibilities, shining through in the likes of “Gravity” and the title track.

The album opens with “Another Man,” delivering powerful vocals followed by borderlines screams on the intense “Long May They Roll,” with Picton boldly and loudly declaring, “if loving you means bitter tears down my face, well.. long may they roll.”

Jazzy, bluesy production provides the dramatic theme of the album Picton, who is also a film director, is trying to portray. The producers do a great job in making authentic bluesy soul compositions to blend with Picton’s solid vocals, however the singer fails to deliver the same class lyrically; many songs are damaged with clichés [“pain is what I learnt with the wind and the rain”].

The majority of the songs on the album are dramatic and could easily be theme tunes for a classic Hollywood film; “Nothing At All” is a cool blues number that stimulates thoughts of a smoky bar possessed with excessive gambling, whilst epic album closer “The Boy That Wants To Fly” would fly well in a tense superhero or crime series. However, the highlight of the album is most definitely “Almost You,” showcasing the artist’s soulful sincerity.

Though lacking a certain spark in parts, overall Play It By Heart is a solid debut and earmarks some real potential for growth.

James Jay Picton – Play It By Heart
Label: Decca
Released: August 27, 2012
Buy: iTunes / Amazon.co.uk / HMV