King James – King James

As an atheist listening to spiritual music can be a little like gatecrashing a party, sat alone in a corner with only thoughts of science and evolution for company amid the ‘Jesus loves you’ banter.

But despite being labeled as gospel and Christian there are enough question marks over west country based folk duo King James’s take on religion on their self titled debut album to welcome an unbeliever like me.

This line on their Myspace page for example suggests that there is something far darker, far more personal going on within tracks such as ‘The River of Jordan’ and ‘This Christian Life.’ Its chilly words read: “The religious aspect of the songs is confused, unhappy, accusing and frequently misinterpreted.”

The duo, of Johny lamb, who records under the name Thirty Pounds of Bone, and Laurence Collyer who is otherwise known as The Diamond Family Archive, add that they have come together as King James to find “a strange solace in exploring what might be described as disproportionately religious upbringings.” This raises further questions and nicely leaves the listener to put their own take on the subject matter.

King James

Another reason I’ve warmed to this album is the music itself. Quite simply it’s a thing of beauty; likeable and lo-fi in a Bon Iver way, full of subtle instrumentation and haunting choral arrangements.

The album gets better as it goes on, with later tracks such as ‘Sonny Said’ and ‘The River of Jordan’ among many standouts as acoustic guitar comes more to the fore and the arrangement works far better with the King James’s choral style.

If there are criticisms to be made it is that some of the opening tracks, like ‘A Pessimist’s Hymnal’ can sound a little dreary on first take. I took to them after a few listens, but they lack the immediate hit of the second half of the album. On the earlier tracks it feels a little too much like a live show that takes time to get into its stride.

Also, while the lo-fi production does suit much of the album the choral aspect in places deserves a bigger sound. I’m reminded of the gospel surf of ‘River Song’ from Dennis Wilson’s 1977 album Pacific Ocean Blue and found myself hankering after Wilson’s lush arrangements too many times.

As a debut this is a beautiful, intriguing album that promises much more to come from another excellent new act on what is becoming an increasingly interesting UK folk scene.


by Joe Lepper

King James is released by Bleeding Heart Recordings on January 24 on vinyl and as as digital download. More information here.


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