JOSHUA JAMES – ” My Spirit Sister “

Posted: May 5, 2017 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: ,

My Spirit Sister is officially out in the world. Since its release on April 7th, Prior to its release, NPR, and Rolling Stone reviewed and premiered tracks from the album and, most recently, The Bluegrass Situation wrote a kind review that beautifully summarizes the track “Losin’ Mi Mente.” This reception has lead me to a grateful heart and mind, and thank you’s radiate from my crooked toes to my wandering brain.

Joshua James has over the course of four previous albums and a handful of EPs stretching back to 2004, the Utah-by-way-of-Nebraska troubadour has been digging into his own ,and others’ psyches, aiming to explore the inner workings of the usual singer/songwriter topics of love, religion, humanity and, as implied by this album’s title, spiritual concepts.

While those themes might seem already pretty well played out, James’ whispered voice, incisive lyrics and songs that balance his introspective tendencies with sweet, taut melodies make this a compelling listen. Reverbed, often floating guitars collide with sing-along choruses that creep up on you, sneaking into your head and swirling around. That’s especially the case on “Real Love,” a misleading title since the protagonist sings, “…is there any hope for real love?” before repeating, “tell everybody in my head,” on a song that switches tempos almost halfway through, perhaps indicating the mental instability of the singer.

James might be recounting the story of his early years (or someone else’s) on the ominous “Dark Cloud,” where a love once on fire fizzles out over a 10-year period (“I woke up nine years later to a woman I don’t even see”), leaving him wondering if he has the titular haze over his head. Things don’t improve romantically on the bleak “Pretty Feather” either. Here James muses over his lover seeing another man with “I’m living with the ghost of a woman who doesn’t feel the same.” He’s also torn about having a child, as he sings on “Millie” that, “I’ve got a baby comin’ April, God I don’t know what I should do/ I guess I could let her Mom raise her, put her on a retainer/ leave her singin’ the no daddy blues.” Life doesn’t get much bleaker than that.

The accompanying music, played by a backing three-piece (James isn’t credited with any instruments), is meticulously recorded with understated, effective overdubs that provide a full, colorful palette of sound, enriching even the most melancholy of tunes with a lighter touch. There may be substantial gloom in James’ world but he balances that with a ray of sunlight in the construction of his bittersweet ballads.

Joshua James says ,I wanted to try and celebrate the death of St. Valentine in a different manner than I have in the past. I sat down, after the babes had slipped into their slumber, and wrote this song. I wanted the song to be recorded immediately after I wrote it, and to add things that felt were adding to the song and then let it just be. Let it live as it was in that moment. No laborious process or procedures. Inside of the song you will find mistakes, pitchy notes, bad intonation, but then you will find spirit.

One look at the cover photo of Joshua James hiding behind a skeleton mask is enough to understand that things are not rosy in his world. Regardless, he turns those lemons into the lemonade of a moving work that never feels quite as gloomy as it is.

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