Beth // James – Get Together
This Austin indie-Americana couple performs as Beth // James. They are Mikaela Beth (piano, synth, Wurlitzer, Rhodes) & Jordan James Burchill (guitars, synth).
Their 10-cut debut Get Together (Drops June 3–Independent) is filled with tunes that are light-hearted & good-natured. With a twang, vintage indie-pop melodies & light musical fare. They sing about the canine of their dreams, an ill-fated group tattoo & saved voicemails of a loved one. Some are quite good.
There are no heavily poetic Leonard Cohen emotional structures or creative journeys ala Joni Mitchell.
The old Instamatic camera that produced washed-out faded color 60s pictures is the duo’s humor but aligns with the music they express. A few pictures of James show him somewhat like a younger brother of counterculture activist & former Fugs member Ed Sanders. Same hair, mustache – just not as radical.
Both are highly accomplished musicians who rely more on dreamy songs than electrifying solos. The more upbeat “Shake It Out,” is a good pop tune with an Abba-feel. It’s elementary lyrically in a commercial mainstream sense. Beth comes across as sweet-voiced in tonality. “Dog We Don’t Have,” comes with a nice horn touch (Mike St. Clair) but vocally – could be more distinctive.
“Boy Genius,” & “Happy Birthday,” — well, well, well — these stayed in the oven a little longer. Beth shines in a very-Fleetwood Mac way. Impressive. James’ voice is fine too.
Duos like Richard & Mimi Farina, Mimi Farina & Tom Jans, Nino Tempo & April Stevens, and Lyme & Cybelle (Lyme was Warren Zevon) – were duos with finesse & edge. I’m not saying Beth // James doesn’t have this – some songs do, others don’t. The 35-minute CD was produced by James Petrelli (synth) with Nick Clark & Mike Luzecky (bass) & Matt Young (drums).
“Sean’s Intro,” is a brief “Manhattan Spiritual,” type-brief interlude. It’s a shame since it sounded like it would go somewhere. The song that followed didn’t. But I believe this duo saved the best for last.
The final 3 tracks are no less than excellent. Beth sings “The Sun,” poignantly & beautifully. The simple, delicate “Voicemails,” is as deep as they’ve gone lyrically & it’s lovely. James’ best vocal comes on “Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl,” which is superb. Beth is absolutely marvelous. These alone would recommend the CD.
My biggest criticism is CD art. Not much thought here. Too many shots look like they’re from a family album. Images should make the CD marketable. The portrait on the duo’s press release (above) is better than them riding away, backs turned — on vintage bikes.
Photo courtesy of their website. CD @ https://www.bethjamesband.com/
Enjoy our earlier premiere here: Song Premiere: Beth // James “Voicemails”