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James Talley - Heartsong
Review By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist
11/10/09

I have always seen myself as an artist, not just an entertainer. I am more comfortable in blue jeans and a flannel shirt than in rhinestones and sequins. “
~
James Talley from his liner notes.

There is a quality to the music of James Talley. It’s a quiet and honest style. It comes with a lyrical veneer, which rightly has Talley tagged as an Americana pioneer. It’s a style, perfected over a time span counted in decades rather than years. For the fans, and there are many, Talley continues his simple and observational look at life, love, God and the American way with his latest, Heartsong. And, just like his earlier and heralded back catalogue, it doesn’t disappoint. The reason is simple enough. The album has a heart and it has soul.

I am first and foremost a writer,” says this Oklahoma born troubadour. And across this album – his first new project in 10 years – his 16 life-soaked tracks lend positive fact to the claim. There’s no Nashville conveyor belt urgency to the writing here; rather, Tally does as he’s always done – he delivers music that is blessed as being inspirational and intuitive.

As he tells in his liner notes, “My inspiration has always come from the people, from their lives, their struggles – of which there are many…it’s often late in our lives before we truly learn what is really important and of value.”

To précis this album: It’s comes finely crafted with Talley’s rich and emotive baritone, pulled together into a prized and listenable piece of work. But the richer reward for the discerning listener will rest in repeated playing, as it’s there the music, the writing, the shade and toning, and Tally’s keen ear and eye of what really matters comes revealed.

They Can’t Kill Love” is a catalogue of human efforts to change the will of man, but as Talley shares, love may be tested but it can’t be discarded. It’s much like the universal family truth: “When Mamma Ain’t Happy” then nobody is happy. The fiddle-rich tale of the good life when your mother is beaming highlights, again, the clean and sharp playing of the well-chosen and seasoned players in the band.

Tally has been making music, deep, spirited and ponderous since 1975. That lyrical trademark is evident again here.

Are They Really Different?” is a paused and tempered tune. It looks at the universal possibilities that people everywhere share the passions, hopes and dreams that bond the human spirit.

But to analyse Talley’s Heartsong, track by track, is wasted respect to this fine and talented performer. My take, my feel, my view on the lyrical storytelling is exactly that – my take. You need your own experience. When you listen to tracks like the keen and atmospheric “Santa Fe Blues”, or the bluesy “Cold Blooded Killers”, with it’s tale of significant deceit and treachery, or the ache of a love lost on “When It Was A Love Affair” you hear a talent with a message. It’s a message not such much for the masses, but rather for individuals prepared to listen.

Tally’s music, like his well-told tunes, is stylish and individual. If you want open and honest music that will take the test of time, if you want an artist, not just a performer, look to Heartsong and James Talley.

A deserved double thumbs up from me.

It is out now on Cimarron Records.

Related Links:  
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