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James Van Cooper - 'Coming Home' Album Review


1. Passing Through

2. Younger Then

3. Coming Home

4. Midnight Love

5. Car Crash

6. Goodbye My Friends

7. Lights Don’t Shine

8. Don’t Say It’s Over

9. Demolition

10. Kew

Australian artist James Van Cooper (JVC) sounds wise beyond his years on this debut solo album that incorporates Country, Rock, and Americana in a way that I imagine would receive Gram Parsons’ approval. JVC creates songs that sound as at home driving in the car as they do late at night while contemplating the day’s events at home or at your establishment of choice for a beverage or two. This album should allow him to pull in audiences from multiple genres and provides him with a high quality debut that will find him subject to high expectations moving forward.

‘Passing Through’ provides an up-tempo mini anthem to start the album as the chorus here provides a direct hit and an immediate hook to remain with the listener. There are moments here where his voice hits notes and really reminds me of Jason Isbell vocals. ‘I got a million ideas but none are as bad as you’ being one of the stand out lines here. ‘Younger Then’ sounds like it was dusted off an old 78 record and made into a digital file. The mastering of the album allows some sonic peaks and valleys that compliment the songs very well. This little shuffle provides a quieter moment with some similarities reminding me of ‘Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left to Say’ by Steve Earle. Title track ‘Coming Home’ is a slow burner that showcases JVC’s voice with some tasty female vocals provided by the talented Jaime Wyatt who should also be a household name. Check out her mini album ‘Felony Blues’ to find out why. The subtle piano touches here are awesome with this song being one of the best on the album.

‘Midnight Love’ brings us back to a 70’s Country Rock feel with a slinky riff providing a musical hook to go along with the hook in the chorus. The bass lines get a chance to shine in the mix here, but every instrument is crystal clear. Wrapping up the first half of the album in fine style is the rocking ‘Car Crash.’ JVC has a gift in his voice where it seamlessly adapts to both a rocking style and the emotionally vulnerable ballads. This one has a huge hook in the chorus that should take up residency on Texas Country radio and find a home with Red Dirt Music fans across the world who love the likes of the Randy Rogers Band and Micky & the Motorcars.

The acoustic country picking on ‘Goodbye My Friends’ starts the back half of the record with another great song. This is designed to make sure your foot is tapping, and the short acoustic solo shines. One of the things that becomes apparent on this album is JVC does not want to waste any of your time. Similar to Steve Earle’s almighty ‘Guitar Town,’ these songs hit you hard and fast with most songs falling well under the 4 minute mark. ‘Lights Don’t Shine’ is a down and out gritty song recalling Ryan Bingham with some great vocals. ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’ is a beautiful song with a huge chorus, and lyrics that tell us there is a much older world weary soul inside JVC. I have a feeling in that about 10 years this song will sound even more massive live as JVC continues to develop his voice. Producer Scott Campbell has done a tremendous job on this album and captured some amazing performances.

‘Demolition’ reminds me of Ryan Adams by name, and, truth be told, this song is not too far away from some of Adams’ material. The songs starts with just an acoustic guitar, then the vocals before other musical embellishments start to enter around the one minute mark. This song is just under 4 minutes but really feels like an epic with an awesome electric guitar lick appearing just past the halfway mark. As quiet as it begins, it explodes into a loud Rock flourish before the end. Closer ‘Kew’ finds some soft acoustic picking laying the framework for JVC to provide us with one last tale before the candle blows out, and we wait for the sun to slowly rise on a new day.

James Van Cooper is only 21 years-old and has put out a debut album that will establish a place for him in the crowded Alt-Country market. These are songs that are easy to relate to but also have a deeper lyrical depth for those of us willing to dig. At his young age, I anticipate we will see him continue to carve out new musical roads and not stay stagnant in one specific area which could find him on a career trajectory along the lines of a Steve Earle or Ryan Adams where he creates a broad canvas that allows him to do just about anything while remaining true to who he is.

‘Coming Home’ is available now.

Check out the video for 'Passing Through'

Review - Gerald Stansbury

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