When it comes to turning people on to new music, it doesn’t get much newer than Jay Smart. And rarely does it seem this promising.
At 24 years old, Smart is a newcomer to both Minneapolis and America. He’s only been playing guitar a few years. He’s yet to put out a record. As of two months ago, he was close to being a complete unknown in the music scene.
Now, he’s a must-hear. The main — but far from only — reason for the buzz is his re-recording of a Haley Bonar song that itself is very new. (Listen here.)
“I recorded it as soon as I heard it, I was so blown away,” Smart said of Bonar’s “Kismet Kill,” the single from the local indie-rock vet’s latest album, “Impossible Dream.”
Smart turned the frayed, stormy rocker into a slow, dramatic acoustic ballad sung in his willowy but soulful voice, part Jeff Buckley and part Terence Trent D’Arby (look him up, kids). Bonar was greatly impressed. So were 89.3 the Current’s tastemakers, who put the cover version in rotation alongside Bonar’s original. Still, nobody really knew who he was.
He’s a native of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, which he called in his British-sounding accent “an interesting, mostly westernized city.” He had relatives in Minneapolis and moved here three years ago, he said, to try to make it as a musician in the state that birthed his greatest influence, Bob Dylan. His real name isn’t Jay Smart, of course, but like Dylan he opted to keep the real thing under wraps for now.
At least the secret is out on his talent. Smart’s singing voice is as golden as the trees around his adopted hometown this week, and his songwriting is already rich if still a bit raw. Check out the songs on a folky solo acoustic EP posted at JaySmartMusic.com, all largely based on what he called his “problematic” and “lonely” experiences changing countries. He is currently wood-shedding with a new band and hopes to unveil his debut record and live show in the spring.
Not only did she whoop it up with LL Cool J at the Austin City Limits Fest last weekend, but Lizzo also dropped a new EP, “Coconut Oil,” her first release on Atlantic Records. It features her prior single “Good as Hell” and a decidedly mixed bag of booming rap tracks (“Phone”) and poppy R&B tunes (“Worship”), including collaborations with Meghan Trainor’s producer Ricky Reed. …
New venue alert! Well, sort of new. The Hook and Ladder Theater & Lounge is the new name for the converted south Minneapolis firehouse at Lake Street at Minnehaha Avenue S., where Patrick’s Cabaret used to be. With Palmer’s and Patrick’s vet Chris Mozena for its booker, the venue hosts reggae vets Dred I Dread on Saturday (8 p.m., $8-$10, thehookmpls.com). … Black Market Brass will be at the H&L on Nov. 12, but first the Afrobeat big band will squeeze into Hymie’s Records on Sunday at 4 p.m. to tout its wild new album, “Cheat and Start a Fight.” …
Sean McPherson of Heiruspecs is a big liar. He told me a decade ago his pioneering hip-hop band would never make it to its 20th anniversary, and here we are: The party is Friday at Icehouse (11 p.m., $15), and the band is issuing a five-song EP online that day, titled “theskyisfalling” and as vigorous as any 20-year-old. … Heiruspecs keyboardist Devon Gray has been collaborating with Somali rap group Wayahaa Cusub on a local residency that culminates with an Oct. 22 gig at the Cedar. …
British transplant Katy Vernon hosts her fifth annual Uke Fest at Vieux Carré on Friday, a playful showcase of ukulele strummers supporting the serious cause of Arc Greater Twin Cities (8:30 p.m., $10.). … First Ave’s ninth annual Replacements tribute is on for the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 25, but it’s moving to the Turf Club. That opened up the main room that night for a Har Mar Superstar show. First Ave’s usual run of post-Thanksgiving homecoming gigs will include the Cactus Blossoms (Nov. 26), Atmosphere (Nov. 29), Mason Jennings (Dec. 3), Lizzo (Dec. 10), Soul Asylum (Dec. 16) and the Jayhawks (Dec. 29).