To clarify, there is no one named James in James and the Drifters. It’s this group of five guys named Kyle, Brent, Andy, Andrew and Dan, all from Fort Wayne, who formed the band in Huntington and take folk and rock-inspired jams and update them for fresh ears. I can tell you this from witnessing their sets at Battle of the Bands XI – where they are semifinalists – that James and the Drifters can really work a crowd. They take their inspirations (My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, Coldplay) and make the most of them. All That Gold is the group’s fourth album since its inception in 2010, and the music within is accomplished and explores a variety of musical possibilities. For instance, what if Dave Matthews tinkered around with more electronic-based instruments? What kind of music would Vampire Weekend make if they started wearing cowboy boots (if they haven’t done so already)? What if Radiohead were to incorporate subtle shades of country and folk? Over the course of an hour, James and the Drifters attempt to answer a variety of their own musical questions and come away with 13 songs that make for an expansive breadth of sonic wisdom.
“Lucille the Wall” kicks off the album with a steady beat and keyboard part and serves as a compelling beginning before getting into slower acoustic songs like “Morning Light” and the touching “Happy Anniversary, Darlin’,” which serve as the calm center of the album. The songs being touted as the singles, “Foxtrot” and “Til I Die,” are indeed representative of the colorful tones of the album (as demonstrated by the cover art), and the latter single takes the unusual move of being saved for the climactic finale.
Admittedly, the vinyl version offers a clearer picture than does the CD of what James and the Drifters want to accomplish with All That Gold. Cut down to 10 tracks and with a slightly altered arrangement, the music makes a lasting impression and is closer to being a concise statement. Plus, the slight rearrangement of the track listing gives the audience another perspective as to how these songs can fit together.
Having the word “gold” in one’s album title tends to hold the music within to a certain standard, and fortunately for James and the Drifters, they have managed to make an album where every song belongs, no matter where you choose to begin or end it. Both the CD and vinyl versions can be bought at all Wooden Nickel locations.
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Marcus King Band
July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion