[Rating: 3.5 STARS]
James Hurley is a songwriter of consequence. There’s a gentle urgency in his work, a sense that this is a man who wants to be heard and should be. There is swing, swagger, and soul. There’s both brain and brawn, a nimble confidence of physicality and spirit. His music is distinctively rhythmic, often syncopated, with grooves that shift-shape into little suites. A warmth and tenderness permeates, as does a sense of joy, even when decrying the madness of modern times, a prevalent theme. “Mountain” cunningly surveys the ways modern man bulldozes through the earth when it’s in the way. “Mushroom” resounds with the fun of creativity itself, the joy of making connections, of indulging in the ecstasy of unbound imagination. He’s an inspired guitarist, with a fluid flair that is never flashy, but always in the service of the song. His songwriting voice is such that even when his conceit is a poetic, abstract one, you follow his lead. Sometimes, his songs are visceral and anthemic, sometimes comic, sometimes philosophical, but always distinct. “Jealous of the Moon” is a jewel–a lyrical romp with a delightfully chromatic melody that brings Paul McCartney to mind. And “Long Way Down,” with a great gospel choir interplay, is pure passion and heart. This is strong, soul-sustaining music.