Graeme James – Seasons
This 12-song set comes from the Netherlands courtesy of a native New Zealand multi-instrumentalist /one-man band who’s nailed down some beautiful songs for his 2nd Nettwerk Records effort – Seasons (Drops April 1).
Graeme James also produced the CD & layered all instruments down painstakingly on his own: violin, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass, double bass, banjo, baritone ukulele, viola, cello, harmonica, accordion & percussion. I play solitaire.
While the PR & other reviewers may compare James to contemporary singer-songwriters I’m old school & will probably go back further to the people who influenced the influencers. Sorry, but much of what I hear can be traced back to these other artists from long ago — but not an imitator but a taste of the same musical loveliness stirred gently not shaken.
Mr. James for this effort turned to the natural world for inspiration. While many love songs are about desire Graeme goes for a much deeper love song – the appreciation of a person long after you’ve gotten to know them. The infatuation has worn off, imperfections are known, good & bad habits, quirks are out & still that person remains special. Being in love with the personality, the spirit, who they are, not what they look like.
You see that kind of love song is harder to write because one would have to actually experience it.
With James’ vocals, I heard in many of his songs a variety of great singer-songwriters who also explored the gossamer of love. “Everlasting Love,” is sung with a tonality that reminds me of the best of the late Kingston Trio singer/guitarist John Stewart (“Gold” with members of Fleetwood Mac in tow). “Banks of Arrow,” has a backup that leans into Beach Boys-type harmony & the instrumentation touches upon early Dave Cousins’ solo work & with Strawbs. Nice finale, a good combination.
By the wonderful coda “No Memories of Tomorrow,” Graeme’s light touch poignancy had the trademark of the late English singer-songwriter Clifford T. Ward (“Gaye” “Wherewithal,” & “Home Thoughts”). A romantic melody with excellent lyrics & tone. The violin & acoustic guitar performed with expertise.
As I listened I went back a few times. Out of 12 songs I was intrigued by 9. All were well-performed, well-written & recorded. “The Fool,” “The Tallest Tree,” “Field Notes on an Endless Day,” “The Angel of St. George,” the upbeat banjo-driven “Death Defying Acts,” “The Voyage of the James Caird,” & the ones I cited.
There are a few songs — borderline bombastic, not in a bad way. Just approaching an aggressive Black 47-Dropkick Murphy’s type saloon cred. James’ isn’t of that ilk. It isn’t that the song suffers, it just doesn’t seem to fit with the other beauties.
The 46-minute CD is available @ https://www.graemejamesmusic.com/ +
Enjoy our interview here: Interview: Graeme James Faces Fear Head On