Keith James - No. 1 Paradise Road

In recent years, folk music has undergone something of a resurgence, both in the mainstream and on the pub circuit. Artists such as KT Tunstall have successfully blended rock and folk to much critical acclaim, whilst artists such as Adem and Stephen Fretwell continue to produce excellent work. DJ's like Mark Radcliffe are championing folk music more and more, even playing in a folk band himself.

There also exists in older music fans a growing dissatisfaction with the hit parade. Some people feel too old for Arctic Monkeys; they feel unable to engage with Hard-Fi. These are the people who generally go into a music store and blow fifty quid on CD's in one go, but are finding it harder to pick anything to spend this cash on. And so these people are often turning to far less "fashionable" outlets for their musical fix.

Now in his 50's, Keith James lives in Canterbury, where he runs "The Dream of Oswald", one of England's most well known recording studios dedicated to folk, roots and the dreaded jazz. He released four vinyl LP's in the 1980's, and has toured the country on countless occasions. However, he is better known for performing "The Songs of Nick Drake", to much appreciation. For the past three years, Keith has toured these songs over six times, with his own interpretation of the enigmatic and troubled songwriter that has fascinated all who have heard his music.

Keith James though still records and performs in his own right, and has released here a fine collection of folk and soft, gentle ballads. Opening track "Never Think About" is just wonderful, with an enchanting instrumental opening, gentle guitar lines mixing with Wurlitzer over a gentle groove. The production is very clean - perhaps a bit too clean for some - with the vocal clear and pure. The whole sound of this album is very organic, with no sign of any digital trickery or manipulation.

Mostly what we get is James and his guitar, with a gentle, minimal backing. This is most evident on "Circle Song", an excellent piece of songwriting and for me, the standout track on the album. It sounds like The Tindersticks slightly softer dad; excellent guitar, simple double-bass, James almost crooning over a basic track. Wonderful stuff and a very thoughtful song.

Tracks like "Show Me the Way" and "Stone" up the tempo a notch, but mostly, the album keeps a slower pace, but never leaden and plodding. It doesn't all work, in fact, I think two of the cover versions are the weaker tracks. John Martyn's "I Don't Want to Know About Evil" is just boring, and the cover of "Woodstock" has a bit too much jazzy saxophone for my liking. However, the third cover version is very special - from Drake's Bryter Layter album, "Chime of a City Clock" is performed quite differently, a fuller sound with some excellent Hammond and a fine guitar performance.

This album is certainly not for everyone. Some I think will find it far too "grown-up" for their liking. There is not much edge here, the spirit of rock a long way away. However, for those willing to take a risk, this is an album of excellent songwriting, performed and recorded by someone who clearly has much experience and natural talent.


Keith James is currently touring. He is performing his own material at the following venues:

Friday March 3rd: Peebles, The Eastgate Theatre (01721 725777)
Saturday March 4th: Bury, The Met (01617 612216)
Wednesday March 8th: Swindon, Beehive (01793 523187)
Thursday 9th March: Aldershot, The West End Centre (01252 330040)
Friday 10th March: Canterbury, The Gulbenkian Theatre (01227 769075)
Friday 17th March: Cardiff, Norwegian Church Arts Centre (08700 131812)
Tuesday 21st March: Somerset, Wyndham Arms, Kingsbury Episcopi (01935 823239)
Friday 24th March: Bristol, The Folkhouse (01179 262987)
Sunday 26th March: The Bell, Bath (01225 460426)
Monday 27th March: Cheltenham, Town Hall (01242 227979)
Wednesday 29th March: Portsmouth, The Eastney Cellars (02392 826249)
Thursday 30th March: Loughborough, The Acoustic Club (01509 822723)

Saturday 8th April: Exeter, The Phoenix (01392 667080)
Thursday 13th April: Farnham, The William Cobbett (01252 726281)
Friday 14th April: Dorset, The Square and Compass (01929 439229)
Thursday 27th April: Petersfield, Traders (01730 233022)

More details can be found at his website.

Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 06:12:51

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