Album: From The Top of Willamette Mountain
There’s only a small group of things that can result from a musician not only growing up in Lincoln Nebraska & writing music lyrically treading the footprints of wandering hearts along American back roads but someone whose name on Wikipedia is followed by the bracketed title ‘folk singer’; as though we needed anymore convincing. And one of those results is undoubtedly Joshua James’ third installment “From The Top Of Willamette Mountian”. Either that or a hot cup of cocoa.
Embarking on the third chapter of his musical story, James produces an album that makes you feel warm & fuzzy inside. However, while tracks like ‘Queen of the City’, ‘So Did I’ and most particularly opener ‘Mystic’ enclose you in a cocoon of vocal layers, vivid imagery & sweeping crescendos, by track four you find yourself thinking whether you’ve heard this song before. It feels as though James, Marcus Mumford and Ben Howard all went to the same ‘school of acoustic/folk music’, but James was the slower of the three in the class. While Mumford & Howard snook ahead in the game, it’s as though James was left out in the playground for a bit too long scratching his ear, & the result is an undeniable but unntential twin of what the former have been belting out & building up armies of fan-bases with for the past few years. There’s a hint of the husky vocals of Mumford & the subtle waves of emotion that Howard portrays so well, but there’s something a bit off. Something not quite there. A little bit like sugar free Ribena; similar to what you like, but just not as satisfying.
In a Nutshell: While diversity is seen from track to track, with ‘Surrender’ flowing to the beat of a 60’s love song and ‘Sister’ evoking something more aggressive & thoughtful, the acoustic heartache can get tiresome at times.
By Rebekah Rennick