James J Turner – Future Meets The Past
Received this set a little late but it’s worth noting. The 12 cuts on James J Turner’s self-produced & arranged CD Future Meets The Past (Dropped June 29–Touch the Moon) were recorded in his hometown of Liverpool, England.
James J Turner (vocals/acoustic Martin D28 & electric guitar/mandolin/whistles/Shruti) has a warm assertive voice. It would’ve been nice if a lyric insert was included. The material sounds more intense than the average Americana-Roots collective lately. Lead-off cut “Future Meets the Past,” is a little oom-pah-pah in the beat department but add the haunting violin sawing & the song becomes compelling & apocalyptic.
James is in good company with similar singers like Tom Wilson, Art Bergman, England’s Steve Swindells & more recently America’s Stuffy Shmitt. There’s a slight dip into the folksiness of England’s late David McWilliams & the still wonderful William Topley. These are creative dynamic singer-songwriters who were perhaps too good for mainstream ears. “Kalahari Rain,” is an aggressive violin-fueled succinct production masterpiece. This is the kind of song that separates the men from the boys. Atmospheric, smoothly produced, insurgent country properties & driving instrumentation.
Turner’s use of the violin really embellishes the material with true Americana ambrosia. The arrangements are all done with a touch of finesse. James’ songs delve into serious subjects & his ornamentation of varied instruments is gutsy & well-captured. Turner sings with sufficient folk rock/rootsy brilliance but never forgets to rock. That’s what gives some of these structures the necessary lift to their expression. Even the more repetitive “Real Change,” has a distinct identity.
“Breaking of the Ties,” is soused in Middle-Eastern instrumentation but it has well-crafted musicianship applied energetically. Turner slides into a straight solid rocker in the beat-heavy “Heaven’s Inside You.” The violin maintains momentum & keeps Turner impressively rocking. If you’re a musician you want a vocalist with this kind of radiant soul. It’s encouraging, it helps push the music along at a generous clip as New York’s Willie Nile does. It’s music that a band can jam to. Superb material.
Surrendering some of the vital edge the later songs are a little more commercial & repetitive. But not lacking in tuneful glory or musicianship. “Hey Brother,” is more Gerry Rafferty inspired, while “Move Up To the Light,” has a Steve Swindells (“Fresh Blood”) rock embodiment.
Highlights – “Future Meets the Past,” “Kalahari Rain,” “Cycles of Life,” “Real Change,” “Breaking of the Ties,” “Heaven’s Inside You.” “Hey Brother,” “Move Up To the Light” & “Universe.”
Musicians – Etienne Girard (electric bass/double bass), Dave Ormsby & Mark Rice (drums/percussion), Amy Chalmers (violin/bgv), Chris Haigh & Neil McCartney (violin) & Vicky Mutch (cello).
CD photography by Jude Whittaker. The 48-minute CD @ https://www.jamesjturner.com/