CD REVIEW: James May - A Thousand Shining Pieces
By Cyrus Rhodes - 05/17/2010 - 01:36 PM EDT
Artist: James May
Album: A Thousand Shining Pieces
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Acoustic jazz
Sounds Like: James Taylor, Suzanne Vega, Paul Mcartney
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 10/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Loving Arms, Warm Love, Strength Beyond
Singer songwriting guitarist James May from San Francisco, California releases his debut "A Thousand Shining Pieces" in the Fall of 2009. This is his debut release.
Logging in at just over 57 minutes, the CD kicks things off with “Truth Garden” a slow moving acoustical ballad that serves up a peaceful intro melody by May accompanied by inviting piano, flute, & rich guitar ambiance. Track 2 “Coming Home” shifts gears a bit with more upbeat personality dishing out full tilt Hammond Organ chops, driving rhythm, & hooky chorus line. Track 3 “Falling Into” crosses the line into contemporary Jazz territory with soothing saxophone, stand up bass nuances, & well placed & piano & percussive accents. The CD makes a great first impression, providing 3 solid musical experiences during the first 15 minutes of play. As the CD slowly unfolds you will notice most of the songs are very conservative in nature, with lush layers of musical instrumentation layered everywhere. I would classify this music as acoustical folk jazz that goes down smooth, & fills the sonic space with what I would describe as peaceful tranquility. The musicianship provides a lot of musical variety, & make no bones about it - this band is as good as it gets. You will also notice brief splashes of percussion, piano, clarinet, cello, violins, violas, drums, saxophone, stand-up bass, mandolin, accordion, trumpet, trombone, pennywhistle, saxophone, & sizzling Hammond Organ accents along the way. All in all the CD has some truly impressive moments, showcasing impressive lyrical content, soothing vocal melodies from May, & world class musicianship to boot. May's vocal abilities work extremely well across the board as he crosses many musical boundaries effectively & successfully. This is not easy to do. Weather it be R&B, Rock, Folk, or Jazz, May seems comfortable crossing into each one one. His vocal style reminds me a lot of of classic James Taylor & Paul Mcartney. From carefree pieces like “Coming Home”, “Hey There” & “Eliza Jane” to songs possessing rich priceless conventional wisdom like: “Five Years On”, “On the Line” to songs possessing classic jazz ambience, ” Strength Beyond” & “The Seventh Wave.” & “If you Say.” this CD has it all. Truth be told "A Thousand Shining Pieces" doesn’t have a weak moment on it period, & at 57minutes it a fully loaded production. For me the true brilliance of James May shines though on the more solitary, sad but true moments. Song like “Loving Arms” & “Warm Love” offer amazing lyrical content, and rich conventional wisdom, sung to us from a deeply honest perspective that is 100% pure & genuine.
After spending 57 minutes with James May it's hard to find any real weaknesses worth noting. Instead as the CD progressed I became more & more impressed with the production as a whole. Make no bones about it, it took raw honesty to write some of these songs. What I like most about James May is there is no attempt to sugar coat the truth anywhere on any of his songs. I really admire artists out there who are themselves & just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to artists that can show us something genuine beneath their veil of vanity - James May is one of these artists. May might not possesses a heart stopping vocal ability like Kenny Loggins, Keith Urban, or Chris Isaak,, but we’ve seen plenty of popular artists like Paul Mcartney, Eric Clapton & even Jack Johnson get hall passes on their singing because it works, it's infectious, & their music is amazing. “A Thousand Shining Pieces” is a world class musical production from start to finish. There’s not a weak song on this entire catalogue period! The musicianship is first rate, the songs are short and sweet musical experiences. Each one possessing a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Lastly - the playing, writing, and singing abilities of James May & his band are amazing. James May is an artist worthy of attention, spotlight, and praise, & everything about him screams professionalism. I guess could go on and on all night about James May you simply have got to get your hands on “A Thousand Shining Pieces” to see what I am talking about. It's pretty much amazing!
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