Band: Josh James
Album: Primitive Sketches EP
Best element: The songs are all great individually.
Band E-mail: N/a
The acoustic songwriter world is full of variation. If you’ve got a guitar, and a voice, you can have a crack at it- producing everything from Ani Difranco’s empowered-girl folk to Dashboard Confessional’s emotive pop to Damien Jurado’s fractured Americana. Unfortunately, there’s a genre that most people armed with only an acoustic guitar fall into- the coffeeshop artist.
Some people do it excellently, some don’t do it well at all, but all do it with heart- busting out songs that run the gamut from folk to ballad to pop, then smashing them all together in one set, or one album. Josh James is a definite coffeeshop artist.
The biggest problem with coffeeshop artists is that they never carve out a definite niche. James falls victim to this in his EP Primitive Sketches. While all four songs are enjoyable, with “Comfort Coat” being especially well-done, the EP is a dart-board of styles. “Comfort Coat” is a neat piece of finger-picked mature pop in the vein of Gary Jules, with a consistently interesting guitar line and a well-done vocal line, but it’s backed up with “Feet on the Ground”, which is a neo-soul track. “Stay the Same” is a confrontational track in the vein of Elliot Smith, and “Nothing to Lose” is gravel-throated somber dirge. He does some genres better than others, and accomplishes absolutely no flow.
James’ high-ranged voice is great on songs like “Comfort Coat”, where he stays in his range and works the tone of his voice into the guitar sound- it’s unfortunately not so good on songs like “Feet on the Ground” and “Stay the Same”, where some unnecessary stretches are taken, whether they be too high or too low.
Overall, the tracks are enjoyable individually, but with the rapid change of styles and moods, it’s a challenge to enjoy every song when a thorough play of the album is heard. There is a lot of promise in the voice and guitar skill of Josh James, but he needs to exploit it by carving a niche for himself in one of these genres and running with it.