Record Review: James Keyes – Ruminations

I get a lot of music submissions, in the hopes that I’ll review the record here or at GoodSongs.Com (which is now here also).  Assuming a submission is reasonably targeted to my taste, I listen to at least part of it, though I am horribly backed up at the moment.


Tonight I received a copy of James Keyes’ new record Ruminations (purchase at CD Baby).  Something- I can’t say what exactly- made me queue up the record right away, while I was working on something else.

Man, am I glad I did.  This is good stuff.  Sort of a gritty, but melodic alternative country sound, at least at the start.  It reminds me a little of the Hangdogs, which is high praise.  But that’s not a perfect description either.  It’s alt. folk, with a little rust around the edges. Or something like that.

It’s the kind of music you want to listen to on the back porch, with a bottle of Maker’s Mark in your hand and a good dog at your feet.

And it has range.  Maybe too much range for some, but it spans several of my genres.

Hardliner starts off with an Uncle Tupeloish guitar riff and then blends into a Clarence White vibe that I really, really dig.

Two Mirror keeps to the alt. country path, with guitar and harmonica, and a sad story and a subtly upbeat sound.  The arrangements on this record are consistently excellent.

It’s All Easy is a gritty folk blues number, that channels good, cosmic Ray Wylie Hubbard.  I wondered about the Tom Waits comparison I read somewhere until I heard Dream Endless and Work Song.  Either would sound right at home on Heart of Saturday Night.  Back when Tom was making great music.  And not just random noise, but I digress.

Things take a definite turn off the alt. county path in the middle of the record, with more of a driving, bluesy folk sound.  More Son Seals than Son Volt, but that’s OK.

There are still some alt. country moments to be had, though, as James turns in a rocking Slobberbone sound on SSG.

This one will make the jump to a CD-R so I can listen in my truck, along with the vintage Charlie Daniels and bootleg Drive-by Truckers that are already in my CD player.  That’s pretty good company.

Rancho Review Ratings:
(5 point scale)

Music: 4
Lyrics: 3.5
Consistency: 3
Artwork: 3
Overall: 3.25
Purchase: @ CD Baby