Many journalists made comparisons between Matthew Jay and Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, and Elliot Smith. However, this was probably for no other reason than the fact that Jay was, at first glance, a wistful young male singer-songwriter with a guitar. This was actually something that quite irked Jay, who vehemently objected to being compartmentalised within the new acoustic movement, which was at its height at the time he was signed.
Although it's no bad thing to be bracketed with a collection of song-writing greats, I think that Jay deserves to viewed as a unique individual. I personally would have to say that apart from a passing musical resemblance, the only things Jay had in common with this fine company was talent, intelligence, sensitivity, and, sadly, an untimely end. Whilst it's true that you can see glimmers in 'Draw' of the musical influences that shaped this talented young man's body of work, in my opinion, there is no whole scale resemblance to any one artist. I think that, even in this debut work, Jay was beginning to find his own style, which differed greatly from those he was sometimes compared with.
What I find particularly appealing and unique about Jay's music, is the duality in the nature of his songs: the sometimes melancholy subject matter, placed in direct juxtaposition to a sunny melody and lively beat. Jay often brought wry humour and optimism to traditional lyric matter. Love was something he tackled with a refreshingly honest and youthful perspective. His gentle handling of darker subjects, as in 'You're Always Going Too Soon,' written about the death of a close childhood friend, is incredibly touching, without being sentimental or maudlin. Similarly, his chart single 'Please Don't Send Me Away' reflects his interest in theology and philosophy; something especially unusual in someone so young. It's a rare song indeed that manages to appeal to a mainstream pop audience, whilst the lyrics detail a conversation at the gates of Heaven, between a man and God, about the merits of how the man has lived his life.
If anything, I'd say any artist similarities in Jay's work are more akin to the songwriters he grew up with, based on his father's record collection of 1960s and 70s UK legends. There's a definite 'Beatley' vibe going on there, slanted, if anything, in favour of George Harrison's sweet melodic sound, and spiritual leanings.
But Jay was no one-trick pony. Sweetness and optimism were predominant tones in his work, but were by no means his only tack. His lyrics could be equally acerbic: 'Four Minute Rebellion' (banned in the US, due to the use of a naughty word) is a great satire on the transitory and shallow nature of the entertainment world.
Another review here states that '...it took Elliott Smith a good three or four albums to get where he was going...' and I believe that Jay too was still exploring his musical direction at the time of his death. 'Draw' is an incredibly diverse album, all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that it was the debut of a young man who had never even played a solo gig in his life before being signed. It is plain to see that Jay was evolving into a mature and individual song-writer. I feel that the album gives a tantalising picture of who Matthew Jay was, and that he was, very definitely, his own person.