Saturday, 6 April 2013

Albums for Life: 26: James Grant: Sawdust in My Veins

For his 1998 debut James Grant moved away from the guitar histrionics and blues stylings of Love and Money and concentrated on songs and the singing of them.
And what an intense vocal performance he produced.
Needle to vinyl; a scattershot rim ushers 'Pray the Dawn' in, and you melt into the sofa:

Just another star-crossed lover
Fallen on the thorns of life

The strings of The Scottish BT Ensemble wrap themselves around the song and all is well with world.
Faultless arrangement after faultless arrangement follows; it's all swoon-some and pitch perfect.
There's emotion wrung from every note of voice and guitar but never does it feel forced; a genuine tour de force in fact.
I hate to get trainspotterish but there are moments of singing on 'I Don't Know You Anymore' that are truly transcendent. Grant has ditched the nasal whine that tainted some of his previous performances; now the sustain and control is spectacular. If you have the album listen to the Chicken Skin moments as they come thick and fast in just that one song:
- 'I never tried to love you...' The vibrato on 'you' (1.00)
- 'To bring it back somehooooow...' The tremulous sustain on the last word (1.10)
- The same section of the 2nd chorus (2.20)
- The restraint of the first guitar solo (warmed by exquisite strings) after the second chorus (2.30 - 3.10)
- That same vocal section of the 3rd chorus (3.44)
- The final guitar blitz at 3.58
It's sultry and sonorous fare; serious as shingles. You can't imagine James wearing a paper crown at the christmas party and offering you a tug on his cracker...

It seems too that the man (or his label) is oddly protective of this work; I notice that there are no downloads available on Amazon or iTunes and it's really hard to find YouTube videos of any tracks from the album. Maybe I'm being a numbskull but I can't place this video of 'I Don't Know You Anymore' on the page. It's well worth clicking the link to see.
I'm not big on solos but, bugger me, there's a fine moment at the end of the song that rivals the album version. It makes me want to get the tennis racket out and go strut my stuff in the bedroom mirror.
Finally, here's a solo version of 'This is the Last Time' that passes muster mirthlessly...


  1. Another completely new to me artist and the album isn't on Spotify either. What do they expect you to do? Buy It? I like I Don't Know You Anymore though. Will have to listen to the albums that are on Spotify.

    1. It's a shame that this isn't easier to check out Seamus.
      The other albums are fine but this is a class above...

  2. Enough about Spotify Seamus! I've just been terminated by Canuck regulators after wintering in Florida. Just when I thought I had it...

    Big thumbs up for 'Sawdust'. I had it @ #51, kinda low, eh? I thought you'd go for another one...

    PS: Hey, I just trawled back and see you slipped a Love & Money album into your list! Maybe I was in transit and missed it.
    I seem to recall a pow-wow where you declared your great admiration for James Grant solo but "underwhelmed" & "indifferent" to L&M... and receiving a stern rebuke from David et moi. Change of heart? Peer pressure??!!

  3. Another fair cop TT. I think that I thought that Dogs was a Grant album...
    One of the joys of the list is the revisiting and rediscovery; how easy it is to conveniently dismiss from the memory.
    Seamus has given me some Rotten homework to do; it's like being back at boarding school..

    1. And I want fifty lines on that by Monday morning, Jones!
      Have to say I'm finding it difficult enough to keep up with my own list, let alone others. I keep thinking of albums that should have been on the list but they're now being relegated to -70 and beyond on my potentially extremely long list.
      But the future is infinite, is it not? If it's not I'll have to start cutting back my to do lists.

    2. I've just sent 3 of those lines to your site Seamus; a pitiful apology for my early morning grumbling.
      I'm afraid that there was no cat about to kick, and not a pill in sight so I unloaded on PIL.
      I know what you mean about omissions... too much good music forgotten...

  4. Another mighty fine review of a fantastic album. I remember, on a visit back to England, searching high and low for the 'Pray the Dawn' single' It still remains one of my favourite tracks by any artist and certainly my favourite Grant track.....but after saying all that I have another Grant album in my top 20.

  5. Intrigued as to what you've gone for Phil.
    Is that poetry & music I smell?

  6. You could be qualified to receive a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.