The blues gospel of the opening title song on this solo album is brilliant, James’ vocal [as I wrote about of his latest, here] such a dynamic presence. Heavily strummed guitar and gritty harmonica playing are a simple but powerful accompaniment. The same goes for next Crossroads [Nick Shoulders on the harp for these two openers].
The strum-and-slap guitar work on Brighter Day reminds just a little of John Martyn, and here again a gospel chorus [provided by James as overdubs, presumably] seems to affirm a signature sound, though the very next, Pendulum Swing with Chris Overcash on violin, is a softer, sweeter song with James still singing powerfully but less grittily. Fifth Almost Home is even gentler, and conveys the breadth to his emotive offering, for the drama of the singing – full throttle or delicate [relatively….] – is the core appeal so far, not to say the songs aren’t finely written.
Indeed, sixth Michelle’s Song is more complex in the crafting, and is again delivered with a sensitivity – that is until nearing the end where pace and volume once more rise in emotive force. In Good Soldier, which contains the voice of a soldier who fought in Iraq, James is passionate in his exploration of rights and wrongs, and certainly critical of the political decisions made about this ‘occupation’.
The penultimate A Good Friend is Hard to Find has James singing falsetto, and beautifully so, whilst playing piano on a song that yet again broadens what one expects to keep hearing, vocal harmonies swirling around to make this a genuinely gorgeous offering. Closer Refuse has Overcash on violin again over guitar and piano, an instrumental that seems a brave as well as talented way to conclude.
On the strength of liking his Shapeshifter album, I bought this on James’ Bandcamp site here, and I thoroughly recommend.