Texan tenor Jason James is a country traditionalist, which is always good to discover in a young artist. His debut album, on New West Records, is packed with a retro melange of self-composed shuffles, country ballads and rockabilly. Half the tracks were produced by John Evans in Texas, the remainder by Keith Gattis in Nashville.
The fabulous ‘I’ve Been Drinkin’ More’ (the official first single but a world removed from contemporary radio) sounds like a lost classic from the 1960s, with a lovelorn protagonist drowning his sorrows:
I’ve been drinkin’ more
Since you’ve been lovin’ me less
‘Here Comes The Heartache’ is another very retro shuffle. I loved both of these.
‘I Wonder If You’ll Ever Come Around’ is an excellent wistful ballad about a man with a straying wife. The emotional ‘World Of Make Believe’ is a anguished soaring ballad reminiscent of some of George Jones 1960s recordings complete with Nashville Sound backing vocals. (The opening is as if he is about to launch into ‘The Window Up Above’.) ‘Back In My Arms’ is another lonesome ballad with an extended steel guitar instrumental in the middle. There is more gorgeous steel guitar and fiddle on the excellent suicidally depressed ‘I’ll Set You Free’:
Now honey I’m still trapped under your spell
And I’m fresh outa change for the wishing well
You’re as cruel as the river here is cold
I’ll set you free but my heart won’t let you go
‘Welcome To The Blues’ is lyrically downbeat but sounds more mellow. The romantic ‘Walk Through My Heart’ is another fine song.
He turns to pretty authentic rockabilly in the frantic ‘Hot Mouth Mama’ and ‘Fancy Limousine’. I liked these less than the straight country tracks, but that’s an issue of personal taste rather than quality.
The oddly titled ‘Buppa Bup Bow Wow’ features a wail just short of a yodel, and is very Hank Williamsesque apart from the title refrain. ‘True Blues’ is somewhat in the same vein, but more subdued. ‘Pullin’ Out The Suit’ picks up the tempo again.
Jason has a nice, if not very distinctive, tenor voice with a smooth tone, but the real strength of the album is in the songs and production. It’s a good listen if you miss older style country music.