Band Name: Josh James
Album Name: Painted in a Corner
Best Element: Songwriting Growth
Genre: Acoustic Singer/songwriter
Label Name: N/a
Band E-mail: myspace.com/joshjamesgtr
Having reviewed James’ acoustic-only debut Primitive Sketches, I was especially interested in seeing how his songwriting would grow and change with a full band backing him. While the added instruments provide some good changes, they also provides back alleys to travel that ultimately reach dead-ends and stop James from claiming a sound specifically his own.
That really is my biggest complaint here: James still sounds like he’s dabbling in a lot of different things rather than investing himself in one solid sound that he can hang his hat on. From the funk-lite of “Like a Bird” to the John Mayer-esque “Through to Me” to the serious “Don’t Remember” to the poignant “Home,” James is all over the map with Painted in a Corner. He and Aaron Sprinkle have something in common- they both take incorrect self-deprecating shots with their album titles.
The good thing is that there is improvement here. The vocals are slowly losing their annoying breathiness, especially on tracks like the rocking “Stuck in a Rut” and “Goodbye.” Unfortunately, we still have the heavy breathing of “Cold Cruel World” and “Like a Bird” to deal with.
I can forgive “Cold Cruel World,” because it holds the single best hook that James has ever written. That’s proof that the melodic ability of James is growing. Each of these songs has a pronounced hook, and that’s a great thing to have.
James’ best songs here are his slow ballads “Home” and “Comfort Coat.” It sounds as if he poured extra care and attention into them, as “Home” has a fantastic string accompaniment and “Comfort Coat” has a great horn line. This gives both these tunes double the amount of interesting melodies that the rest of the songs have.
There is a lot of growth and improvement on Painted in a Corner, but seeing as it is actually a first attempt at a full band setting, it’s pretty much a debut album. I look forward to seeing what James will do in the future as he grows in the understanding of the full band. The melodic gift he has will do very well if he can put it in the right setting.