Taylor James - Four Demos
Now, if you were expecting a style of music in the footsteps of Plushgun, or similar outfits, turn away now. James has decided to strip down his music back to its essential elements, a voice with the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar and not much else. Sure there are a couple of overdubs, both vocal and instrumental, and fleeting glances of other instruments (do I detect a piano), as if they are waiting in the wings to be invited to join the party.
The advantage of this format of presentation is that it allows the listener to gauge the quality of the instrumentation and the lyrics. Taylor James can certainly play, and lines up four tracks which have qualities as distinct between them as you will find anywhere, from the jovial sound of "Gentlemen" to the country-feel of "Growing Up". The first impression, indeed the lasting one, is of a charm, a feeling that the artist and a couple of mates sat down in barn and and hammered it all out in a couple of hours. Its very rawness is what makes it so appealing, and if it were given a more professional edge in terms of production refinement it would probably not sound as good.
The quality of the lyrics is one of the high points of the EP. Insightful, yes, and managing to meld the often hard to reconcile features of irony and sensitivity, there is a quality which many other more well-known artists lack. A typical example of this is "Fred Astaire", which manages to convey the impression that the song was recorded by someone sunk in self pity and an an excess of alcohol.
The main problem is Taylor James' voice. The closest I can approximate to is either Tom Waits or some of the early delta blues pioneers. Now that shoud be a recommendation in itself, but somehow it does not quite work. If you are going to do gravelly voices, then you need a lifetime of smoking cheap cigarettes and drinking rotgut whiskey. James seems to rely more on a kind of hoarse shouting and, frankly, it does not work. While it puts his acoustic music out of the ordinary, and in that sense, well worth listening to, I am not sure that an entire album of this would be as easy to appreciate. And once the music lost its core charm, that raw, almost improvisational feel about it, then it would lose a lot more.
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