Kentucky native and longtime Cincinnati resident Jay Bolotin is best known locally as a renowned visual artist with an international following. But this past Friday, the album No One Seems To Notice That It's Raining was released nationally, revisiting a different form of Bolotin’s artistic output from the 1970s, when he was a widely admired singer/songwriter whose work was covered David Allen Coe, Dan Fogelberg and Porter Wagoner.
The Raining release is a collection of studio sessions and demos Bolotin made between 1970 and 1975 that had never previously been released. The project is being distributed by the Nashville/Chicago label Delmore Recording Society, which is run by Mark Linn, who previously put together archival releases featuring music by Kris Kristofferson (another Bolotin admirer), Love and Karen Dalton.
Click here for more info on the release, which is available in a limited-edition package that includes a book containing excerpts from Bolotin’s letters from that era, new woodcut artwork and more.
Tonight (Nov. 13), Bolotin is making a rare live musical appearance at Northside Tavern to celebrate the release of No One Seems To Notice That It's Raining. The free show begins at 8 p.m. and copies of the release will be available to purchase at the event. Special guests for the show are Diana Darby and Ali Edward & Billy Alletzhauser, who are gearing up for a reunion of their band Ruby Vileos at Woodward Theater on Nov. 27, part of a tribute to and book release for the late local poet Aralee Strange (click here for details).
Longtime CityBeat writer/editor Steven Rosen wrote the press-kit bio for the Delmore project. Read an excerpt below and the full thing here:
It was September, 1974 and Mickey Newbury and Kris Kristofferson were in the dressing room of the Exit/In, a club revered in Nashville for treating the singer-songwriters of country as artists rather than merely formulaic-hit-churning Music Row pros. Newbury was doing two nights at the Exit/In and Kristofferson was there as an admirer. A reporter for The Tennessean wasprofiling Newbury, but he wound up spending quite a bit of his article describing the opening act, Jay Bolotin. How could he not when he was standing nearby when Kristofferson said to Bolotin: “Tell you what, man. You’re a great writer!”?
As The Tennessean journalist, Jerry Bailey, described the scene, Bolotin felt a little uneasy, sitting on a sofa, as Kristofferson and Newbury kept praising him. “He said nothing as they derided ‘those guys’ on Music Row for not recognizing those talents,” Bailey wrote. And after Bolotin left to begin the second show, Newbury turned to Kristofferson and urged him to use his influence on “those idiots” on Music Row to pay attention to Bolotin.
Bolotin never got the kind of record-industry attention so many members of Nashville’s country music community believed he deserved. Besides Kristofferson and Newbury, Merle Haggard, Norbert Putnam, Porter Wagoner, David Allen Coe and Dan Fogelberg all were enthusiastic fans. Kristofferson, Putnam and Haggard all tried to record him at different times, and Coe and Fogelberg — an odd couple, to be sure — covered his songs.
Fogelberg even had a hit single with one, “It’s Hard to Go Down Easy.” But Bolotin, who had frequent live performances at clubs like the Exit/In, never managed to release an album during his time there.
Fearlessly individualistic, his music wasn’t for everyone. But the fans of his songs thought he was uncommonly gifted. “Because Jay was so interesting and poetic, they’d call him the King of Imagery,” says Owsley Manier, the Exit/In founder. “The images in his lyrics were just breathtaking. The people who didn’t understand him...hated him. But for the great writers like Newbury and Kristofferson, it was a slam-dunk. They knew."
Until now, Bolotin himself hasn’t looked back much at that time. He didn’t even know some of these recordings still existed until Mark Linn, the president of Delmore Recording Society, uncovered the demos. Now, Bolotin is hopeful they will at last find an audience.
“I have come to think of time as a kind of tool – like a paint brush or a chisel,” he says. “Time seems to have done some work on these songs – something good.”
Here’s the video for Dan Fogelberg’s version of Bolotin’s song “It’s Hard to Go Down Easy.”