Jason James Brings The Voices of the Old Greats Back Alive in Debut Album
“Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” was the question George Jones once asked.
Well he may only have two feet, and those might be mighty big shoes to fill and there’s plenty of pairs of them laying around to boot, but Jason James isn’t afraid to try and slip his hooves into some vacated footwear, or at least make music that reminds us of the many greats who’ve passed on and whose legacies are slowly growing dim in the minds of many.
The company line coming from Music Row in Nashville these days is that nobody wants to hear old classic country music, and even if they did, they could go back and listen to the old records, so there’s no need to make new country music that sounds old. Easy to say for Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan, but who wants to hear them trying to match the talent of George Jones anyway? That sounds like a terrible idea. The simple truth is the majority of today’s mainstream country stars don’t have the goods, the heart, or the understanding of music to make classic country even if they wanted to.
But there’s others who do. Jason James isn’t afraid to to pen a song in a traditional style and then challenge himself to sing it with the same heart and passion as one of the old greats. Nobody will ever replace George Jones or ‘Ol Hank, but that doesn’t mean others can’t try to reach for that same level of excellence, and pay forward the traditions of country to a new era of listeners who still find value in the classic modes. This is what Jason James does, and with an almost eerie expertise at evoking the styles and sounds of the old greats. Jason performs a classic country seance for the ears with a confident ease that encompasses everything from the writing, to the singing, to the arrangement.
Jason James’ debut, self-titled release through New West Records was recorded in two separate settings, though you wouldn’t know this by listening to the finished product. The first sessions commenced in Austin and Houston with producer John Evans, and was bolstered by appearances from Robert Ellis (also of New West Records), and Robert’s steel guitar player Will Van Horn.
Then Jason boogied it out to Nashville where he solicited the services of producer Keith Gattis and an impressive list of veteran players, including bassist Dave Roe of Johnny Cash and Dwight Yoakam fame, fiddler Glen Duncan, and the former steel guitarist for Randy Travis, Steve Hinson. The result is not just songs that sound like classic country, but are authentic to the style because in certain cases it’s some the same players who performed on the older records.
But it’s really the singing and songwriting that is so remarkably accurate that moments in these songs are potent enough to inspire shivers. Jason James wrote most of these songs by himself, though one particular composition, “Walk Through My Heart,” was written with songwriting veterans Jim Lauderdale and Odie Blackmon—speaking to the caliber of songwriting the freshmen effort looks to achieve.
Once James had the songs on paper and the style in mind, he then delivers resoundingly in the vocal performances, which were the essential ingredient to making this debut not just another throwback retro country disc, but a showcase of talent that is singular in nature.
If anything, Jason James’ singing is a little too good, and a little too catered to the styles he’s looking to emulate as opposed to honing in on his own original voice to use universally throughout the record. You never get a bead on what the voice of Jason James himself sounds like, because like a classic country chameleon, he’s constantly changing his voice’s color.
In the opening song” Here Comes The Heartache,” Jason sounds remarkably similar to George Jones. In “True Blues,” the Texas City native sounds like Hank Williams. “Fancy Limousine” is a shot at trying to slip into the Dwight Yoakam sound. And though all of these songs are certainly enjoyable to listen to, and authentic in their own individual realms, the shape shifting ultimately begins to take away from the overall experience.
It’s not about picking one singing style and sticking to it, it’s about discovering James’ own unique singing method and using it in his music more universally to add an original component to the music. This is the way Jason can go beyond a masterful interpreter, to a bona fide original classic country voice. This is the path to filling the shoes of George Jones, Hank, and the others who loom large in the hearts of classic country fans, and will forevermore as long as there’s new generations of performers like Jason James who are willing to carry on the traditions with such tenderness, heart, and dedication.
1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.
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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Jason James self-titled debut.
August 22, 2015 @ 9:36 am
Not to bad.
John Wayne Twitty
August 22, 2015 @ 11:19 am
August 22, 2015 @ 12:53 pm
There, they’re, their now.
August 22, 2015 @ 3:05 pm
Hear here… You’re your yore so sew right rite…
August 22, 2015 @ 9:49 am
This is an interesting ” case” and I think you summed it up very accurately with your observations on Jason’s ” style” , or lack thereof , Trigger .
As country music lovers , no doubt we’ve all heard folks over the years who were not household names but had terrific vocal talents and abilities when it came to delivering the goods with conviction . They are everywhere …..honky tonks , pubs , bars , opening acts and , of course TV talent shows . Notice I didn’t say ” on mainstream radio ” . I think most of the folks we hear on mainstream radio and see on the award shows are NOT the vocalists their products and/or handlers would have us believe they are . Many are challenged pitch-wise , range-wise and more and more often , character-wise as they all seem to be wearing the same hat , as it were , happy to just be a part of the current ” country” fray . Unfortunately for all his obvious passion and love of trad country , I think Jason James , while being a fine vocalist , falls into the above group in terms of vocal character . He doesn’t have what will stand him apart ..even as a traditional stylist . Easton Corbin comes to mind as a guy who DOES have that unique character about his vocal but , as we are all aware , has opted to forsake what he COULD have done for a more traditional sound and join the fray I mentioned above in surrendering to trends and other’s ideas of who he SHOULD be.
I would like nothing more than to see Jason James develop that ‘je ne sais quois’ that would set him apart from the hundreds , if not thousands, of amazingly talented traditional country vocalists hoping to capture our ear on a grand scale . I think it may take more than a unique vocal style for him to do so . I think it will most certainly mean he’ll need to take some risks with his career and live with the results of his choices ….right or wrong .
August 22, 2015 @ 10:51 am
What a breath of fresh air.
John Wayne Twitty
August 22, 2015 @ 11:07 am
I may have to get this album. The cover has a great old fashioned look.
AM I HEARING A STEEL GUITAR AND NOTHING ABOUT TAILGATES????
*Edit-Just ordered the record…
August 22, 2015 @ 11:31 am
This guy probably would’ve sounded right at home on country radio in the ’90s — “I’ve Been Drinkin’ More” reminds me quite a bit of David Ball’s “Thinkin’ Problem.” 🙂
August 22, 2015 @ 11:39 am
Sounds like country music to me, and good country music at that.
August 22, 2015 @ 12:18 pm
Sounds good!! I like it!!
August 22, 2015 @ 1:12 pm
Fantastic song! I especially love how drenched the music is in the steel guitar.
August 22, 2015 @ 6:40 pm
I have been looking for him on YouTube recently but there were literally only just 2-3 videos. 1 is a live video of this song in a club. He needs to get some more stuff on the net.
I was thinking of a little George Jones Tennessee Whiskey somewhere in there.
September 25, 2015 @ 8:47 am
He has a professionally-produced video that his record company, New West, had done coming out soon so stay tuned!! and follow his FB page – we post amateur ones on occasion…just shot at his shows. 🙂
August 22, 2015 @ 7:08 pm
How was this not guns up?
August 22, 2015 @ 11:58 pm
What do you mean? It was.
August 22, 2015 @ 9:07 pm
I would have thought that song was written by Gary Stewart! Love the sound and hope he stays with it. Will have to get this album for sure. Thanks for reviewing this album and bringing it to our attention.
August 23, 2015 @ 6:57 am
That cover is spot-on. Nice tune as well. I really hope we hear more from him in the future.
August 23, 2015 @ 9:11 am
He’s good. I hear some Buck in there too!
August 23, 2015 @ 2:18 pm
I’m hearing a bit of moe bandy
August 23, 2015 @ 7:18 pm
I really really like that song. Steel guitar and fiddle walking around a great melody. I’ve listened to it ten times. I did a you tube search and agree with Ryder, he needs to get some more stuff on the web.
August 23, 2015 @ 10:17 pm
It is nice to hear a pedal steel again. I hear Conway T. more than anything.
August 24, 2015 @ 9:08 am
I mean, here we go again. We put together some of the best of the best and we record some excellent songs, and all we do is butt up against the ceiling that is Hank Williams and George Jones et al.
You have stated my conundrum perfectly.
So, I need something different (Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, Derailers, Mavericks, Blackberry Smoke), but not absurd (FGL, Sam Hunt, Keith Urban).
However, if I could replace all of the Top 100 Country with Jason James, I would be a happy camper!
September 25, 2015 @ 8:52 am
Check out his website then… follow him on the social media sites he has noted there: http://www.jasonjamesband.com 🙂
August 24, 2015 @ 10:10 am
Pretty sure I’ve seen this guy cranking it out on Beale Street at Jerry Lee Lewis’ cafe in Memphis. At least I’m assuming it’s the same guy, they have the same name. Any idea? https://www.facebook.com/jasonjamesenterprises
August 24, 2015 @ 2:20 pm
No that is not the same Jason James. http://www.jasonjamesband.com is his website
September 25, 2015 @ 8:49 am
No… unfortunate that they have the same name… but, this article is about Jason James from Texas City, Texas…. here’s his FB page: https://www.facebook.com/JasonJamesBand/timeline
August 24, 2015 @ 1:07 pm
Good song. Sounds straight out of an Alan Jackson album from the 90’s. Funny that that is “classic” country now. God, I’m getting old, lol…
August 24, 2015 @ 1:13 pm
His voice is too far below the music
August 24, 2015 @ 10:01 pm
Man…that song reminds me so much of “Thinkin’ Problem” by David Ball. Great stuff.
August 25, 2015 @ 6:29 am
Toby in AK
August 26, 2015 @ 6:42 pm
I listened to this guys album a while ago (not sure where I found it, maybe rollingstone country) and I was impressed with his studio sound. Watched some live stuff and I was less impressed, also watched some stripped down acoustic stuff and was once again impressed. I agree that he needs to find his own sound. One thing working in his favor, he is young.
Go Jason James, keep doing what you do. If I’m in or around Austin, I’d go see him.
September 4, 2015 @ 9:56 am
Wow. Good stuff. I’m going to get the album.
December 8, 2018 @ 5:15 pm
I just found out about this fella this week, missed this review some how back in the day.
according to his twitter he has a new album coming out next year :