Somewhere, in a parking lot near the Mopac Expressway, a man is rewinding a cassette tape with a pencil. A dog with an orange bandanna is looking at him, with a chewing toy in its mouth and a tilted head.
The man finishes spooling the tape and puts it back in the busted-up tape player of his ol’ ’86 Citation. He then pats the dog in the head and presses play. He wants to remember exactly who played in which song on this, his first EP called Lonely Songs.
The man is called James and he has been credited as “bad ass” by none other than The Whiskey Priest (a legend of music). He might not be entirely sure of that, but he is sure that his stage persona is called Picardy III and that he likes the spiritual sounds that a mixture of ol’ school country with slocore rock can create. There might be tinges of Counting Crows and Red House Painters on this new creation of his, with a low voice that might be paying tribute to Mr. Cash.
He can even imagine the review someone might be writing…
‘Ever be’ is like a slow hymn being sung to the will-o-wisps that aimless float away from the decaying matter in an old swamp. The song relishes in the easy-going strummed guitar, sometimes accompanied by a distant harmonica, always with a gospel-like voice on tow. ‘Help me hide’ might start as introspective and quiet, but the slow rise feels magnificent; a reaffirmation about life shining a light in a sea of depressing thoughts.
‘Going (The Lonely Song)’ reminds us that “love comes from flesh and blood” and asks to let him “sing this lonely song“; a happy, upbeat song about loneliness? Sure, it can work, because sometimes you need to celebrate sadness, not fear it. Again, an uplifting song, an invitation to soldier on, as this too shall pass.
Now, ‘God save the Queen’ is a very laid back, stripped down track. Just a guitar, vocals and some backing vocals way on the distance, the type that make you wonder “are they really there?” Just like those moments when you wonder if there is someone else there to lend a hand, the choral voices do join, in this, an hour of need, to accentuate the chorus, consolidating the strength of the track.
‘As you climb the mountain’ is very solemn and stark. Just an organ playing and a spoken vocal delivery. Almost like an eulogy, it’s extremely personal, with that plead about “help us sing that lonely song” sending goosebumps. The EP finishes on a playful/moody note. Playful because it’s a cover of Haddaway‘s ‘What is love’. Moody because the cover forgoes the silliness applied to the song by SNL and countless memes and becomes a proper plea to a loved one. It might sound trite and the ramblings of someone overanalysing, but it gives a whole different dimension (and layer of emotion) to the track. It’s a thunderous ending to a sweet collection of tracks.
He stops imagining the review as A friend with a big bushy beard and his dog has arrived. He has a couple of cables and they jumpstart the ol’ Citation. It might be a bit long in the tooth, but the ol’ beast has a lot to give. They talk for a while and he plays the tape again to his friend, who considers that the EP is just the first step towards something else. Something even stronger.
They can’t wait.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López.