Review of Live At The Top Of The World Album by James Walsh

Recorded in the remote town of Tromso in the north of Norway, James Walsh's 'Live At The Top Of The World' EP grew out of the closest major settlement to the North Pole. With string drenched accompaniments provided by the Tromso Chamber Orchestra, the former Starsailor front-mans' debut EP offers bare production, beautifully so, and a brief collection of sonic gems.

'Soul On Trial' opens with strummed acoustic guitar and a rhythmic plucked string accompaniment punctuated by the double bass. Throughout its' verses, the string accompaniment builds layer upon layer, counter-melody upon counter-melody, combining both plucked (pizzicato) strings and lush smooth bowed strings forming a bed over which Walsh's matured, vibrato-ridden vocal soars. 'Loaded Gun' continues in the same well-arranged vein with stabbing strings echoing the rhythmic nature of the strummed guitar whilst smooth, legato strings imitate Walsh's soaring vocal which seamlessly leaps between strong chest voice and falsetto. Despite the bare sound which steers well clear of the electronic-drenched over-production of many contemporary offerings, Walsh's EP still hosts a wonderful depth of sound from the high, soaring violins and gentle, barely audible suggestions of percussion to the low punctuation of the double bass, counterbalanced by delicate hints of piano.

James Walsh Live At The Top Of The World Album

Later, the more up-tempo, stomping pop-song, 'Life', is superbly contrasted by the dreamy piano introduction of 'Man On The Hill', which offers something of a Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan flavour with warm cello melodies interlocking with both Walsh's vocal and smooth female backings. The EP closes with a wonderful, sensitive reworking of one of Starsailor's biggest hits, 'Silence Is Easy', which again evidences a multiplicity of accompanying string layers throughout, from stabbing rhythmic accompaniment to soaring bowed strings, to a scurrying feel alongside acoustic guitar. A solo trumpet sounds descant-like doubling of the vocal melody over the string laden bed before the track concludes with a big string finish.

A beautiful EP.

Hannah Spencer

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