Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Stuff: The James Low Western Front "Whiskey Farmer"

James Low grew up in the remote small town of John Day, Oregon, but for many years has lived in Portland where he is one of the stalwarts on the thriving local singer-songwriter circuit. His brand new 8 song CD presents some of the best work of his career.

Whiskey Farmer follows the sad trajectory of a character who, as Low explains on his web page: "Has always done things kind of right- did OK in school, went to a generic college, racked up a shitload of debt, and got a job to pay off the debt. He drinks to forget. He alienates the ones who love him best, and just cannot believe that this is all there is to life."

Low intends to make a film for all 8 songs on the CD, and here's the first, "Thinking California":

Much of Low's previous work is in a roots rock vein, while this is more of a singer-songwriter effort with a whole lot of old school country flavor. Low's highly capable band of 3 years, The Western Front serve the songs well. What I like best about this CD, on top of the outstanding songwriting, is the singing. Low is an experienced vocalist who has gotten far more intentional in his craft over the years. A young guy will throw down some drinks backstage and then just get up there and let it go. But Low is one of those singers who, like Elvis Costello and Joe Henry, as his career progresses, takes every note and tone seriously and brings some real craft to his vocals in tremendous service to the lyrics and emotional weight of the song.

And while the songs on Whiskey Farmer are sad and heavy, the melodies and warm musicianship make Whiskey Farmer a highly listenable and enjoyable CD. Producer Mike Coykendall (M Ward, Richmond Fontaine, Blitzen Trapper) gets a terrific sound here.
I find myself drawn to this "whiskey farmer" character, concerned about what will happen to him, intently turning the next page as it were to follow his story.

These songs will stick with you.

Listen here:

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