by Nathan Cardiff
“An Introductory EP” is what Nicholas St. James has humbly labeled his new record Honeysuckle, but even if it is introductory to some, there is a warm familiarity in its tone. Maybe he is just an old soul, but there is comfort in the man’s music and lyrics. My colleague and editor recently featured and accurately described the singer/songwriter’s voice as “gruff, raw, and gnarly.” St. James’ vocal tendencies are gravel lined, but oh so sweet.
Honeysuckle is a bold record for many reasons, starting with opener “Like This Everywhere,” a staggering six minute track that lets the percussion thump along to a strange guitar. St. James spins us tales of sorrow with biting humor (“He drinks and he drinks and he drinks and he drinks/He drinks until his head it feels fine”). His bluesy approach makes him fearless; the tune has a classic vibe, but he experiments with sounds (the loopy transitions between songs gives you the feeling we are time traveling between the past and present) to give him a fresh approach.
The excellent “What Was Right” gives the guitar a little bit of wonky sound to start and St. James’ voice sounds as though he is singing through a telephone before coming in crystal clear on the beautiful track. The sparse song is a devastator; “And damn these lows and damn these highs/And damn that sun for castin’ so much light/And damn the way the ocean tastes/And damn you for doin’ what was right” he bellows in the chorus. His voice fades as though defeated, but that is far from the truth. His imagery is unique and original (I absolutely love the verses “I’ve been eatin’ all my food through a window/I never have any dishes to do/I been washin’ all my clothes I can’t outgrow/Watchin’ them spin through a window at the Laundromat”) and he doesn’t pull any punches. The rough and tumble “Before I Quit It” lets the guitar burn like a fuse on the gunpowder keg for as long as it can, till St. James explodes. “The Good Kind” gives the creeping guitar time to get us to the howled chorus.
Nicholas St. James never rushes through these four tracks; time is well utilized with his slow-burn approach. You get your folk tales and blues rock all in one place. You can feel the heat coming off Honeysuckle from a mile away. The dog days of summer are going to get a lot hotter while you play this record.
Favorite Tracks: “Like This Everywhere” & “What Was Right”
by Nathan Cardiff
Editor’s note: You can see Nicholas St. James play the Replay on Saturday, July 26, with Westerners and The Sluts.