Singing For My Supper
Easy Eye Sound / Nonesuch
Early James – born Frederick James Mullis Jr. – is 26 years old but he has this grizzled-but-chiseled voice that is equal parts Mark Lanegan and Nils Lofgren. That might seem a strange mix – but these are strange times. And it works. It really works. In fact, my only real concern with this album – his debut full-lengther – is that it could all amount to a Ray La Montagne
level of chicanery – some sort of one hit wonder of wide-eyed hope: Is this a rootsy White Ladder? Is this guy a country-ish David Gray? Fuck I hope not.
Riding shotgun, ensuring for great musical notes and arrangements – and the mere fact we’re even hearing him at all – is Dan Auerbach. As one half of The Black Keys he choked out his own career in what we might one day find out was some ultimate performance art. As a producer and talent wrangler he’s got runs on the board and shows care in his approach.
The pallete here offers countrypolitan pop (Clockwork Town, Easter Eggs), jazzy soul (Stockholm Syndrome) and bits of Tom Waits/Chuck E. Weiss dime-store blues (It Doesn’t Matter Now). It’s a fine line between shenanigans and chicanery and I’m not sure how long this will hold my interest ultimately but I do love the voice, the instrumental textures and the pop instincts of assembling 10 songs that never outstay their welcome – some lovely, thoughtful playing to frame them to.
The other thing that’s never to be underrated or at the least under-admired – is someone this young sounding so connected to music that feels its way through the years. The strings that cling to High Horse and the yearning in Early’s voice, it’s a thing of beauty when weighed up against many of the other things we hear in 2020.
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