Review of The Minstrel Album by Nemo James

Nemo James has a new album out. It's called 'The Minstrel'. At one point in his career as a session guitarist, Nemo James played with the top artists: performers such as Petula Clark, Cliff Richard and Tom Jones. Anyone under the age of 30, or even 40, probably has no knowledge of these artists; understandably so. Nevertheless, in their day, they were famous.  

Nemo James The Minstrel Album

For some reason, Nemo took an extended leave of absence from the world of music. During this lacuna, he penned an autobiography called "Just a Few Seconds", the story of his life and travels in Music Land. The book was well-received and achieved impressive sales. In other words, Nemo did what Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones did: played guitar and wrote a delightful book.

And yes, he could have entitled the book "Finding Nemo", but more than likely that would not only have demeaned the book, but resulted in litigation. Still, it would have been appropriate.

Recently, Nemo picked up his guitar and began playing again, and devotees of folk-pop music should be glad he did, because he's a gifted songwriter and singer. Simple lyrics, along with soothing melodies define a style that is reminiscent of James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot. And like the aforementioned artists, his voice is silky smooth, with precise diction and velvety phrasing.

'The Dreamer', with its country/blues feel, is the first track. A simple drum beat backs up Nemo's acoustic guitar and glossy vocals. Initially, the song is mediocre, but a second listening provides a different perception:  there's something alluring about the tune. The second track, 'The Poet', provides a similar reaction. Nemo's songs are an acquired taste. The more one listens, the more they improve.  

The title track presents a definite folksy quality, thick with the essence of James Taylor. Unfortunately, Nemo inserts a conversational fragment in the tune. The effect is disconcerting, harking back to Lorne Green's attempts to substitute dialogue for singing. It doesn't work.

Next up is 'I Wonder', a mixture of blues, folk and country influences. Tasteful female backup vocals add a contemporary flair to the song. 'I Hated What I Found' might be the best song on the album, simply because of Nemo's delightful guitar work, which is complemented by exemplary harmonies. The overall effect borders on the reductive, but it works.  

Some of the songs, for example 'A Simple Love Song' and 'In The Garden', although decent enough, shouldn't be on the album. They're mediocre at best, and space filler at worst. It's almost as if Nemo decided to pad the length of the album.

The production values are excellent. And the musicians on the album are talented. That being said, the addition of one or two ramped up tunes would imbue the album with a degree of passion that it presently lacks. As it stands, there are too many songs on the album; so many, in fact, that they begin to sound redundant.  

All the same, 'The Minstrel' is a solid effort by a first-rate singer/songwriter, who wields an amicable voice and a dextrous guitar. 


Randy Radic

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