Video for Hearts Like Old Cars by Duff Smith
Duff Smith just made this video for my band My People Sleeping’s old song The Pope. (From the album Feye, released in 2009). My People Sleeping was Ruby Kato Attwood, James Irwin, John Ancheta, Patrick Bastedo, Katherine Peacock. Joe Grass also plays pedal steel on this song.
A video for the song Boys and Girls Together by Duff Smith. Duff is a friend and film editor in Toronto. The footage was found in a dresser at an apartment his friend moved into.
A video I made in my studio for the song Needleye. Actually I made it just because the light was so awesome. Halfway through though I realized it felt very much the same as the song Needleye which I had just finished, and it turned out to be the same length.
New Music: James Irwin – Western Transport
Before I start please forgive me as the following may come across as selfish, a bit pretentious and quite a lot ungenerous.
Although an unpopular opinion and one that might cause a few to sit agitated, I find there is something very beautiful, comforting and romantic about ‘the unknown folk artist’, one who remains undiscovered, exists well out of the public eye and fails to gain the attention they truly deserve. It’s not that I don’t ever want him/her to become recognized by mainstream audiences, now that would be selfish and I definitely wouldn’t be a good ambassador for running a website like this where I promote new artists and music. However it’s more of an ode to the struggling artist; vocals are fragile, lyrics are honest, instrumentals are delicate and the listeners relationship with the artist is strong and flourishing with every listen. Due to the struggling artist’s limited audience, the connection between the artist and listener is enhanced tenfold and lyrics resonate far further than a mainstream artist could ever dream of. With todays internet so rife it’s not terribly hard for an artist producing good, interesting new music to gain recognition of some kind, but for some reason it’s always the folk artists who fall by the wayside with this rule. Unbunny and Siskiyou have created some of my favourite records but haven’t made that success breakthrough that they oh-so deserve. It’s this ongoing struggle for folk artists that I will always strangely cherish but at the same time dearly wish it would pass so they can gain what they deserve.
Alongside Unbunny and Siskiyou, James Irwin fits a similar mold of the unknown folk artist. But this is far from saying that these artists are all the same, oh no! James Irwin has accomplished a stunning and beautifully refreshing debut that I just know will continue to grow in personality with every listen and will no doubt end up on my favourites of 2012 list. James’ vocals are the star of the show for me. Naked, honest and echoing the likes of Robin Pecknold and Arthur Russell it’s easy to see why I’m in love with this record. With many tracks carrying that sense of melancholy that I adore, it’s also nice to see songs like ‘Bluedust’, ‘Halfway to Mexico’ and ‘Nothing at All’ carrying optimism and a brighter quality. Western Transport is a rich and lush sounding production with James’ employing many friends to help contribute to this expansive sound including the likes of accordion, synth, clarinet, saxophone, french horn, viola, bowed bass, piano and slide guitar as well as the standard guitar, bass and percussion set up. ‘Western Transport’ is only available for download right now, it’s well worth checking out James Irwin’s website for all these details, and also for staring at the album artwork for a good few minutes. It’s just lovely.
Stream James Irwin’s ‘Western Transport’ via Bandcamp!
I’m posting this in it’s Google translated glory, for those, (most), of us who don’t read Danish. If you do, the original review can be found here.
Thanks to Eva Lakso, my new favourite Danish music writer…and many apologies for Google’s (goofy/surprisingly still impressive) machine-translation.
I am so glad that I discovered James Irwin at 23 and not at 11, that it was a very dark blue sky and not a damned light gray as a company. That the world was quiet, so there was time to slow canadierens numbers could find their place.
But now James Irwin here. He hardly even. I imagine at least that he is right now sitting in front of a hut far away in the Canadian wilderness. The perfect scenario for the melancholic sounding, folk influenced album lo-fi-singer/songwriter Western Transport, which came online in early May. Not that many people have figured it out. I think otherwise well that“Ringing Bells” could be played at The Electric Barometer and the home of anyone with a penchant for Bill Callahan ‘s story and evocative texts, The Zephyrs yellowish color and Cuddle Magic ‘s intimacy – or present itself right next to The New Spring , which Dane’s country-oriented neighbour.
The instrumentation is strikingly confident. It embraces both the indiepop’ede and almost The Morning Benders-wide orchestrated “Nothing At All” , “Needleye” ‘s successful embrace of tradition, people (I would not dream of Cohen) and just after, as if it were not already enough, collectors ‘Boys And Girls Together “ ‘s finger games and tortured, but eternally beautiful vocal harmonies on my imagined heart and squeezes together. Not hard, but noticeably. The grip is loosened by the straightforward melodic “Halfway To Mexico” , stressing that James Irwin despite lo-fi approach hopes that his music is pleasant to hear.Which it is. Especially after the first few numbers. I need to get familiar with the half-husky, half nasal, while insanely endearing vokals often stumbling melody lines. James Irwin momentary tonal groping gives me so much pleasure to read this text, find out why it’s worth beating knot on the tongue to sing words like “prairie” and “pillage”.
Listening to Western Transportation ‘s like staring into the fire and seems an uncomfortable world is okay, because you just now just looking into the fire because there is absolutely quiet and because you are there, the rest of the world is far away. Western Transport takes me out of any situation and replaces it with a static, hot vacuum outside of time and place.As the opening track “Bluedust” ‘s referent initially makes it clear: I’m going to Disappear .
James Irwin lives in Montreal and playing in My People Sleeping , Paradise , Poor William andThe Coal Choir , which I probably will read about here. Western Transportation is his first solo album, and it can be purchased digitally through Band Camp as the only place . Here you can also read the lyrics and listen for free. A vinyl would love to come this fall.
Herohill out of Halifax put up this heartfelt review of Western Transport today.
“…Western Transport is somehow as insignificant as youth, and as monumental as a school yard crush.
James Irwin on the other hand, is a talent to which I can’t relate. His songs, both as My People Sleeping and under the exposed vulnerability of his own name, have consumed me and broken down my defenses without any detection. He moves in shadows, but without malice. His voice is little more than a whisper most times, delivered calmly, coldly, detached from the root but still blossoming. These type of words are normally written by a critic out of spite, a collection of scarlet letters that a singer must carry as he’s run from the village, but for Irwin those traits mask the intensity of loss and passion of free spirit. Western Transport is beautiful; smooth on all edges, but lyrically it’s jagged and strong enough to rip through your heart…”
Check it out here or read below
JAMES IRWIN – “WESTERN TRANSPORT”
James Irwin is not a typical singer/songwriter. Perhaps this is obvious, given his giant melting face. This image, the album cover of his debut Western Transport, is fitting: the James Irwin we hear on this album is no person, but a voice seemingly severed from its source; a flat, tempered force that invokes, directs, and sustains.
With Western Transport, Irwin presents a cohesive tribute to the overwhelmed and underfed: the lost lovers and consumed; roles rarely acknowledged, often too close for comfort. With this delicate context, Irwin chooses to emphasize the holding of moments over their resolve, using striking imagery and artful nuance to powerful, distilling effect.
It’s a wonderfully lyrical album, far outside what I might expect from an unknown voice. But Irwin is not exactly an unknown artist: attentive readers may recognize his unique cadence and tone from a decade of published stories and poems.
As a collection of songs, Western Transport shows influence from folk, pop, country, and poetry. Considered arrangements create uncannily familiar moods, elevating lyrical themes and ultimately showing an impressive and effective sonic pallet. Also present is a spatial and temporal awareness: Irwin displays a prowess in opening spaces for words to come to life and narratives to unfold (“Hearts Like Old Cars”, ”Anyone to Serve”).
A rich yet directed production reminiscent of Bill Callahan or Will Oldham makes Western Transport well-suited for easy listening and atmosphere, but it absolutely shines when given full attention. It is a rare debut: one that not only marks the entrance of a new voice, but broadens what I look for in an album.
How much do I like this album? A whole lot. You will, too. Check out:
- “Blue Dust”
- “Halfway to Mexico”