James Irwin writes songs with a plainspoken beauty in the spirit of Gillian Welch or Bill Callahan. With a voice often likened to Arthur Russell’s, he shares Russell’s curiosity for any and all genres. Stars Blue Wheel, (2020), an album of cosmic country songs written in response to the deaths of Jason Molina, Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty, David Bowie, and James’s dear friend Katherine Peacock, is the most graceful James Irwin recording yet in terms of sound, lyric, and vibe. A tight palette of blue-lit images gather meaning across all nine songs.
Previous albums Western Transport (2012), Unreal (2015), and Shabbytown (2017) gave James a singular reputation in Montreal as a folksinger at home in the arty, lofty music scene of that city’s heyday. Despite ten years of shifting from outsider folk to low-fi 80s pop to indie rock and back, the mood and lyrical voice of James’s music has always been unmistakable. Bandmates used to call it “Jamesing”. He now lives in Toronto where he’s been on hiatus writing a novel about growing up in a religious commune in Oklahoma.
James also played in bands The Moment, My People Sleeping, Paradise, Poor William, The Coal Choir and has occasionally also released albums under pseudonyms like Transparents and Mamatschi.