Darrin James Band has a new single on Ravine Records which showcases a firey mix of jazz and afro-funk, but with a new message for their audience. The new music of Bombs Away is a horn-driven afrobeat tune with anti-war lyrics brought to life by James’ gruff, raspy vocals. The tunes on the double single will have fans dancing and thinking all at the same time. The B-side, Covert Mission Anthem, is an instrumental jazz fusion track with a lot of funk to it as well. The two tracks on this newest single spell great things for the band’s next full album.
Darrin James has been a player on the music scenes of both Brooklyn and Detroit since 2000. He credits Detroit with giving him his Motown, soul and classic rock sensibility, while the ten years he spent in the Brooklyn indie scene also made a big impression on him in his formative music years. All of these influences can be seen throughout James’ discography. James released his first album, Thrones of Gold in 2006 with a band much smaller than he has today, but no less rough-and-ready to live up to the rock visions in his head. The single Had Enough of Me from Thrones of Gold earned critical acclaim and had rock aficionados comparing the new music of Darrin James Band to the classics of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, and James himself to Robbie Robertson and Tom Waits.
Had Enough of Me and many of the other tracks on Thrones of Gold have a more lounge blues/jazz feel, while James’ new music experiments with other styles, as exemplified in the melding of rock, blues, funk and afro rhythms on the Bombs Away dual single. His ability to experiment more in subsequent work is due in a large part to the addition of the horns to Darrin James Band in 2009 for their second album, The Lovely Ugly Truth. Though the first album had plenty of horns such as saxophone soloist Colin Steston, who worked with Tom Waits on two albums, with the new album James was able to put together cohesive horn and percussion sections to give his barroom blues vocals even more depth and versatility. The song Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You from The Lovely Ugly Truth features James on the organ (he also plays keys and guitars) and has a more Joe Cocker vibe, showing an evolution toward more rock-centric music. Shallow Grave, also from the 2009 album, however, leans toward old country and has James’ voice sounding more similar to Paul Westerberg or Jacob Dylan: still in the raspy category, but somehow more modern than his older influences.
With the new music in the Bombs Away single, the versatility of style is really kicked into high gear, as multiple styles are covered in each song. Bombs Away combines heavy afro-Cuban rhythms with a jazz fusion saxophone and loose, bluesy guitar. The all instrumental Covert Mission Anthem is slower, with a complex and syncopated jazz drum track and slightly melancholy guitar and horns which start to pick up in tone and transition into funk toward the middle of the piece. Lyrically, Bombs Away is very different from James’ previous two albums , where he stuck to more classic themes of love and heartbreak to match his bluesy tone. With this single he has grown a bit of a social conscience, discussing in detail the horrors of war and the need for warring countries to come up with a better solution. He very nearly pulls off this fusion of upbeat rhythms and social message, though some more experimentation may be needed on the lyrical end. The new music can only grow from here, however, as James seems to succeed in every genre he attempts.
Those looking for new music who have not heard of Darrin James Band will find a new Kings of Leon or Mumford & Sons in Darrin James Band, only with more versatility and quite a bit more soul. Darrin James seems to take the best parts from his influences, rock and blues legends like Tom Waits and Springsteen, and create a modern and fresh indie take on these classic styles. The new music he has been creating also seems to have a moral sensibility which popular music desperately needs nowadays. Throughout it all, James’ sexy, soulful, raspy voice creates consistency as he explores the many and sundry styles, rhythms and subject matter for which he clearly has a passion. The new double single can be streamed on Darrin James Band’s SoundCloud page, and can be purchased on their website along with their other two albums. With more evolution and experimentation on the horizon for Darrin James Band, they will definitely be an act to keep close watch on in the new music scene.
Review by Layla Klamt