19 Sep 2021
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Graeme James - EP Review: Field Notes on an Endless Day

29 Jul 2021 // A review by Roger Bowie

Graeme James wasn’t planning on becoming a folk singer. Yes, he trained as a violinist from the age of seven, gradually extending his prowess to include other instruments, most prominently the guitar, and other genres, specifically folk, because the family had a band.

But no, school teaching was the extent of the young man’s ambition, until he discovered the loop and penury almost simultaneously (Warning: Loops can make you poor).

The loop slept with him in his broken-down car while he busked to fix it and survive. He found his wife-to-be playing his guitar instead of just looking after it while he mooched off for a break. Legend.

And now he’s back after a stint in Europe with the fourth of a series of EPs dedicated to the seasons and so this winter, it’s summer and Field Notes on an Endless Day.

There’s an oriental feel as the opening track kicks off but then the sound turns both aching and familiar. Graeme James sounds like someone, I can’t quite figure it out, maybe Al Stewart, but... it’s soothing and traditional and English and Celtic and comforting and seductive and it’s The Tallest Tree, cut down at its knees.

The Angel of St George shows of his rich tenor range with just a touch of endearing croak, that’s for emotion, plus falsetto, that’s for truth. The songs are exquisitely arranged, with lush instrumental background anchored by fiddle and acoustic guitar achingly well picked.

Even summer has sad songs, on the beach and Await the Tide. But then the wind whistles and we are further inland, still the land is barren and the sky is raging and the ship was wrecked but you are there and I’ll stay Close to You.

By now it’s clear that summer is not a happy season and next track strikes out with a sombre riff and a dream of you by the sea and my every desire but I am The Wild and I’m calling and howling and not coming home (it would seem).

With a mandolin wind now blowing, it’s time for an uplift, the optimism of the trees, and the giving of thanks. Happy just to be there when time stood still, taking .

Six songs in all, it’s over before it starts, but I’m wanting more, I want the whole year, and I can’t wait for the upcoming Tuning Fork gig on August 13th to discover the four seasons of Graeme James and his loop.

Could be the finest NZ musician I’d never heard of before now…..

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

About Graeme James

Folk singer-songwriter Graeme James didn’t decide on a life in music until it seemed his very existence depended on artistic gifts. In 2012, circumstances outside his control essentialized his life and he found himself sleeping in his car and busking by day to get by. There and then he made the fateful decision to leap into the unknown and pursue a life as a professional musician. Now, four albums in, the New Zealand artist is firmly entrenched in this life path. Yet, he remains reflective of the emotional and physical transience of the path. In the 6 months before relocating to Europe in mid 2018, Graeme recorded his latest album, The Long Way Home. His Nettwerk debut is a warmly insightful, lushly layered modern folk album.

“This album has a calm-before-the-storm perspective. It was written before leaving New Zealand when I felt like had no idea what the future held which was both terrifying and exciting. Uncertainty definitely makes for good songs,” Graeme says with a good-natured laugh.

Graeme is a critically-acclaimed artist rooted in folk’s rich storytelling and musical traditions. He furthers the lineage with an imaginative textural approach in which he carefully crafts multi-instrumental soundscapes. Graeme’s dynamically layered compositions feature him playing violin, electric violin, guitar, bass, baritone ukulele, mandolin, harmonica, percussion, and beatboxing. He produces his own albums, and he faithfully recreates his textural tunes live in real time with a loop pedal. To date, Graeme has issued a pair of endearingly quirky cover albums; a record of all originals; and now, his first label release, The Long Way Home. Graeme’s self-released debut album, News From Nowhere (2016), has garnered awards and critical acclaim back home. He is one of New Zealand’s most streamed indie artists, and his shows regularly sell out. Graeme’s total Spotify plays surpass 20 million, with most of these streams coming from outside of his native New Zealand.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Graeme James

Releases

The Long Way Home
Year: 2019
Type: Album
News From Nowhere
Year: 2016
Type: Album

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