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Early James | Singing for My Supper

The troubadour's frayed vocals may put you off at first, but his songs will draw you in.

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THE PRESS RELEASE:Early James, an Alabama native and the latest signing to Black Keys singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound roster, releases his debut album, Singing for My Supper. The album spans hard-charging blues, wistful folk, and ages-old pop crooning, anchored by the singer’s voice that oscillates from gravel-gruff shout to a honey-smooth whisper. James’ inspirations run from Fiona Apple and Tom Waits to the Southern gothic poets, as heard in the album’s darker themes and in the wry humor with which he writes about them. Auerbach, who decided he needed to produce the singer’s debut album after watching just two seconds of a video of James performing, says: “Some people are good singers, and some people are better than good singers; they just have this great form of expression.” Coming out of a local music scene as first-rate as Birmingham has also helped sculpt James into a songwriter who obsesses over the craft and texture of every word he’s ever sung. “Every line has to mean something to him, personally,” says Auerbach. “It’s not good enough to just write a good song, it needs to have a deeper meaning. He’s unlike any person I’ve ever worked with. He’s not writing a song to be universal; he’s writing a song for him.”

MY TWO CENTS: If you’re looking for a traditionally talented and accessible vocalist, alt-Americana trouabadour Early James’ frayed, ragged voice and mushy delivery may not be your cup of tea. At least at first. Once you get used to his idiosyncratic and individual style — which also manifests itself in his lazily meandering song structures — you’ll be drawn in by his lyrics about struggling with depression, the darker side of his heredity and the fading glories of adulthood. Looks like Auerbach’s got another winner on his hands.