Brett James - Southern Soul / Tell the People / I Am Now EP
Brett James story is something amazing, he has only released one full length album and that was back in 1995, and since then his recorded output has been minimal until the last 8 months or so when he released nothing but track after track of sheer brilliance.
Now we are being slightly selective in our Brett retrospective for in the intervening years he has penned many hits for just about everyone and probably wakes up each morning and goes for a swim in a guitar shaped pool for all we know, but his actual recorded output is our concern today and the lack of it represents a potentially major gap in all of our record collections and that needs to be addressed.
Our first belated sighting of Brett came when "Southern Soul" appeared on our radar, it was the first song to be released from his forthcoming "Tell The People" EP and quite frankly #TEAMw21 have never been the same since hearing it.
The opening chords of "Southern Soul" on piano and guitar pave the way for Brett to come in and when he does he simply blows you away, with a rich, laid back kind of voice that is so easy to listen to. The song is a perfect blend of Country and Soul, pedal steel meets hammond organ and together they make such a great combination.
When Brett sings "You are the most natural thing that i'll ever see tonight's the night let your love set me free" very little analysis is required. The song builds to an impeccable finale and is as welcoming as a warm a summer evening
The second song to be released from the EP is it's title track, and it comes with a simple message that so resonates with our current times.
"Tell the people you love that you love them don't let anything get in your way"
There has never been a better time to not bottle things up and to express your true feelings, for as Brett coins it
"It sure helps having someone carry the load"
With a full on choir adding to the mix, the song takes on an additional spiritual feeling, which is also hinted at in the opening lines
"I went over to the River Jordan stepped into the water fell down on my knees".
There can be no doubt that Brett gives has absolute all towards the success of this track and by the time we reach the final "each and every day" of the chorus, his voice is almost completely hoarse from preaching his message of love..
With more tracks to come in September the "Tell The People" EP looks set to be as stunning as its predecessor,
Brett's first EP of 2020 was "I Am Now" and never was a title more richly deserved, cometh the hour cometh the man!
"I Am Now" is actually the opening track and it's a great little love story of someone taking the time to say all those things that they possibly haven't said aloud before - like "You're the sweetest thing that ever happened to me" or "you're the earth, the stars, the sky and the sea".
There's a lovely clean almost raw feel to the sound with each instrument allowed to sing, from the commanding drums to the delicious organ sound with the track getting its warmth from some sweet soulful horns
There's a slight latin feel and and a quick physics lesson at the start of "Wait", "Diamonds take pressure, fire makes gold , it might take forever the treasures to hold. The theme of things taking time is further developed "perfect takes patience" while "Wine finds its sweetness many years on the vine"
All of this leads us to the "Wait" of the chorus which is gloriously extended out over about 6 seconds, ( teasing us really - what on earth could he be waiting for? ) before he neatly caps things off with "for your love". It's genius simple as that! This time the horns are joined by some backing singers as well and when everything kicks in, it is a thing of sheer beauty as well as its own little wall of sound
The Nashville soul sound carries through onto "Still On My Mind" which takes things even further to an almost anthemic level in every respect, As if to give some light relief "Lonely Ain't So Lonely" tells of the local bar and starts with a gentle acoustic guitar and a gradual verbal painting of the bar "just a neon sign in a parking lot TV's always on like the coffee pot".
The song portrays bar as all things to all people "somewhere to hide or just a place to ease your weary mind". It's a welcoming place "An oasis on the edge of town where Gods children lay their burdens down".
There is an acknowledgement that the the relief may be temporary "Just outside the door, that old wind still blows, and the cold world keeps looking down" but sometimes that is all you need.
"True Believer" closes the EP and it is something just a little bit different from its predecessors but nonetheless magnificent from the very opening line line "I don't pretend to be a hero , we both know I'm way too flawed for that" played out over a backing of strings and an urgent acoustic guitar. The actual nature of who is being believed in is not revealed in the lyric, but it sums up a relationship that is a tight bond, and the undying faith in the line "I'm always on your side" tells of an unquestioning loyalty. Brett has that timbre in his singing that is perfectly able to sell the conflicting sides between the flawed hero and the dependable rock.
In a #TEAMw21 first and in the name of completion there is one other song we should mention and that will mean reviewing a Christmas single in August! a rather splendid song "On Christmas Time".
Now the sentiments and lyrics may scream Christmas, "presents are wrapped under the tree" but don't go expecting sleigh bells or Ho Ho Ho's, this is a Southern Soul Christmas and it slips down like the smoothest "tall glass of wine", with a glorious organ and guitar sound complemented by a horn section.
Brett's relaxed vocals make this seem just the place you want be at Christmas time!
We said at the start that this long gap between recordings is something of a loss to us all and it seems remarkable that on hearing demos of the songs that have gone on to become standards in Country music, no one ever thought - why don't we give the guy singing them a shot? Well we've found him again now and for goodness sake don't let him stop recording again!!!