The solitary soul behind Picardy III is one James Summers, previously devoted to drum duty with The Whiskey Priest band. Here, in A Savior, he presents ten songs that form a follow-up to Lonely Songs – a five-track EP released last year (our review).
James has lovingly crafted these songs. The minimalist opening of ‘Journey to the Angel Choir’’s distant steam train clatter to its choral finale is a sweet, subtle transition. It’s deceptively simple and stunningly beautiful.
Many of the songs here are given a stripped-down treatment. Think Mount Eerie minus the overdubs, loops and effects. Much of it is James and an acoustic guitar, with some low key harmonies. It works just fine.
But when the guest musicians step forward and start layering up a couple of the stand-out numbers, magical things happen. ‘Grown Seeds’ and ‘Fell On Hard Days’, for instance. They’re grand, sweeping, monumental masterworks of melodic alt-country.
There are shades of Bonnie Prince Billy in the bleak, introspective self-deconstruction James puts himself through in these songs. And the religious imagery is sometimes too much for the moderate secular agnostic theist in me. In ‘O Great Seer’ it’s most explicit – not only lyrically, but in the hymnal chorus and wailing organ.
Still, great tune.
This isn’t an album to foist on people with the promise of instant gratification and revelatory discovery. It’s an album to listen to alone, preferably on headphones, and preferably outdoors. It feels personal and considered, and it should be treated as such.
It has its upbeat moments, however. Final track ‘We’re the Saints’ is a jaunty country gospel clapalong. Even if he’s singing about his heart beating blood that’s black as coal. The aforementioned ‘Grown Seeds’ is maybe A Savior’s most accessible entry point, so start there if you’re interested.
I’ll leave the last word to James Summers himself, aka Picardy III: “I don’t wanna be a success / I don’t wanna wear that white dress / The day of my wedding / let me be / Naked as the day I came to breathe.”
Words: Joseph McArthur Field.
Picardy III Bandcamp. Facebook. Twitter.
About the author: Joseph (@joemcafield) writes for several publications, including his own Tumblr. Sometimes he dons a mask and roams the lonely gennels of Sheffield with a banjo.