This is Darrin James.
A singer/songwriter with a true ear for world and Americana music who incorporates a WIDE range of sounds and influences into his often highly collaborative albums.
To pick out a single Darrin James song to highlight his approach would be a disservice to any listener. One must absorb multiple tracks to start to understand the journey that Darrin James wants to you to embrace. While not protest music in the traditional sense, subjects of societal ills seem to star as the subject matter in a lot of James’ street-wise sounds.
His strength lies in his ability to take classic approaches and scatter them throughout an album filled with thoughtful and unexpected diversions. This is accomplished by the masterful songwriting of James combined with his penchant for gathering a roster of contributing musicians who create a large band sound for the more raucous numbers. The album also shows a great deal of control over the feeling of the work as a whole, shifting gears between exposed, minimalist offerings against fleshed out and musically complex numbers, with room left for some interesting experimental instrumental diversions.
His newest offering, “Strange Storm” marks the third release by this Kentucky-born, raised in Detroit, who spent a decade or so in New York, now living in Ann Arbor, MI artist.
There are no less than 10 other musicians credited to the creation of this album, which has been the modus operandi of Darrin James on previous releases. This full band effect is most evident in the rich horn sections that permeate this work and add the much needed sass to the funk and soul jams.
One cannot stress enough the importance of listening to this album as a whole. The most adventurous songs on “Strange Storm” break the molds set before them and act as interesting place holders throughout this release. People need to absorb whole albums more. True artists like James cannot drop a single idea into 10 reworked songs and call it an album. They need to explore ground… test limits… expand horizons.
Exampled by the album’s opening, a stripped down folk hymn called, ‘Walking in the Footsteps’ that would suggest a record of Dylan-esque acoustic observations. However, that track serves as an appetizer, a small nugget to preface the much richer meal that is to be served.
This is made most evident by the opener being followed by the sharp stop/starts of the funk and soul vibe of the title track, ‘Strange Storm’.
‘Slow Trickle or the Rising Tide’ takes an instrumental world beat approach with some tribal percussion and abstract horns that float atop experimental electronic flourishes. The album contains a few of these more abstract, loosen the rules type approaches which adds a sense of adventure and playfulness to the release as a whole.
The bluesy rocker, ‘Dangerous Kind’, utilizes a snappy horn section pushed by the gravel-laced vocals of James and seems to where the artist is most comfortable… finding that sweet spot between rock, blues, and funk.
‘You Never Know’ digs even deeper into the blues roots towards which James finds himself consistently drawn.
‘Downdrafts Cold Fronts’ is a jazzy example of the freedom employed by the in-studio crew Darrin James has put together for this album. While holding itself together, there is a loose, nearly abstract flow that works well to cleanse the audio palate before the heavier soul of ‘Bombs Away’ throws down a more political jab of a warning, wrapped in a funk laced, uptempo jam.
‘Still Believe In Love’ is an acoustic track that bookends the tail of the album, acting as a nice reflection to the opening of “Strange Storm”, once again proving the thought that went into not only the songs themselves, but also how they are presented to the listener.
“Strange Storm” is the followup to 2009’s “The Lovely Ugly Truth” and Darrin James Band’s first album, 2006’s “Thrones of Gold”.
More music, photos, and live date opportunities can be found here… www.darrinjamesband.com