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Jason James

Seems Like Tears Ago – 2019 (Melodyville)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Jason James

If the first few strains of Jason James' "Seems Like Tears Ago" remind you of George Jones, then that's exactly what Jason James intended as he channels the traditional country greats on these 10 original tunes. They are the kind of three-minute classic country weepers and honky-tonkers that would easily fit on radio during the Golden Age of Country (circa '70s and early '80s). Just looking at the cover with James attired in suit-and-tie as if it were a high school yearbook photo, lets you know right away that he even wants to be in line visually with tradition.

James began as a rock singer, but was soon drawn to tradition when he moved to Austin, and later Texas City near Houston, leaving New West Records when they wanted him to sound less traditional. He chose to go, in his words, "the honest and sincere" route, reconvening with his first producer John Evans (Hayes Carll, Corb Lund) to record this in just three days with the help of some of Austin's best. That includes Geoff Queen (electric and steel guitars), Reckless Kelly's Cody Braun on fiddle and Rick Richards on drums.

James can croon and deliver emotion with the best of the greats as evidenced by the opening title track, setting the stage for a series of tear jerkers like "I Miss You After All," "Achin'Takin'Place," "Cry on the Bayou," ""Foolish Heart" and "Ole Used to Be," mostly ballads. Naturally "Cry on the Bayou," a waltz, brings in some Cajun/Zydeco flavor. He offers the requisite honker-tonkers too, none better than the two-steppin' "We're Gonna Honky Tonk Tonight." The first single, perhaps a bit edgier than the others is "Move a Little Closer," with a train beat, baritone guitar, with fiddle and Telecaster leads reminiscent of those great Buck Owens Bakersfield records.

He changes it up with a happy love song ballad in "Simply Divine," but brings that oh-so-good chilling George Jones-like pathos to "Coldest Day of the Year." Keep in mind these are all originals, proving that the classic country sound can still be channeled effectively, so much so, that you may even think that Billy Sherrill or Owen Bradley is at the board.