I was first introduced to OLD JAMES when they were on the 2015 North American tour with big name bands GIRLSCHOOL and CRUCIFIED BARBARA. The gig was at the infamous Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, CA. It was THE coolest show ever. The club kicked us all to the curb at 2:00 am and no one wanted to go home. OLD JAMES opened with VELVET BLACK and at that time, I did the write up for A&GS about that gig. I made a mention to watch out for this band. Well the time has come and they are self-releasing their premiere album Speak Volumes on June 2.
OLD JAMES brings that old, raw ‘70’s style jam “in your face” rock. They are NOT over produced but just who they are. The album sounds like a live performance …raw and intense. The guys are Brian Stephenson (pounding lead vocals and bass), brother Chris Stephenson (monster skins) and Andy “T-Cat” Thompson who does an incredible job on guitar. They have energy and drive and will wear your ass out at a show.
Heading the assault is “Don’t Pull It On Me,” a get down and get funky bluesy number. This beast reminds me of a tune that could have been written by the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan. Brian introduces his great vocal skills and is finished off by an awesome lick by T-Cat. If this tune doesn’t make you want to go pound your fist, then you didn’t play it loud enough. Wow. “Lemons (The End Of Something)” is next. The first thing that stands out for me is the down and out funky-ass bass work along with some nice harmony. It adheres to your mind with a gooey, sticky blues and JIMI HENDRIX feel. Oh man. “Words as Weapons” begins with what I thought was a kick ass BUDGIE tune for about 10 seconds and with some killer bass in your face. I think if you want to hear what OLD JAMES sounds like, this is the tune. This is SO characteristic: pounding raw rawk.
“So Real” slows down the raw sophistication for a little more controlled blues/rock blend. T-Cat has a great six string sound on this track. It’s so different and I really love this tune. Next up is “Salutations” which begins with younger brother Stephenson pounding out a deliberate beat. Elder brother gives us some soulful lyrics and then T-Cat suddenly blows off your face with explosive guitar. The guys back off a bit and smooth into their blues base and end with an awesome jam. “Bass-Ik Instincts” arrives next, but makes only a brief appearance with some bass sound effects….aaaand on to the next. Something just fun stuck in there.
“Kill Off the Rose” has that rock n’ blues foundation and some really heavy guitar filler. As is apparent, these guys take turns showing off in each song and this one is no exception. “Master Imploder” also has a very nicely done live video which came out about the same time as the album stream. Having a real southern rock feel, the guys drive this one home and T-Cat will melt your face before you pull into the driveway. “Eugene” was a bit odd, so I’m not really sure what to think about this one and the title track “Speaking Volumes” clean up the batting order.
At the end of the day this album is an adventure. Every song is uniquely its own. These guys have lots of talent waiting to be discovered. If the album does as well as they perform on stage, then it’s a powerhouse. Nice work gents. Keep it up, I think you have the right idea. Salude’
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Don’t Pull It On Me’, “Lemons (The End of Something)”, “Words as Weapons”, “So Real”, “Master Imploder”
–MARK “\M/ETAL \M/ESSIAH” EHRLICH