James Deane has been honing his performing and songwriting skills in the pubs and clubs around his home area of Guildford. His debut album, Diamonds & Hearts is soon to be released on Denzil Records. At first listen this is a fairly standard, but very well executed, collection of love songs. But listen closer. .. James Deane has some clever and effective lyrical approaches, a great voice, and a winning way with a guitar.
James’s varied approach to song writing is one of his strengths and should help keep the audience listening. There’s a general West Coast feeling about the songs on offer and, more specifically, there are clear Neil Young and Jackson Browne influences. James’s vocal is a great asset and carries the album along beautifully. His voice is very reminiscent of Michael MacDonald, and he’s capable of adapting this as eloquently as his song writing. The opening title track, Diamonds & Hearts provides strong hints of Tom Petty, as does Dreamed You Were Home. Soulful love songs, such as Whole Heart Blue, gentle country and upbeat R&B, especially in the 70’s Blues Rock, Nobody Knows You (Like I Do), work together in a very enjoyable debut album.
Occasional bursts of brass, on the whole, add a pleasing warmth to some tracks but at times a string section may have been a more effective choice. James’s guitar work is varied, confident and skillfully executed. This is supplemented on the reflective ‘Reasons’ by Jason Andrew’s gentle acoustic melodies. In addition to ‘Reasons’ Jason also co-wrote ‘Midnight Train’ and ‘Seventeen’. Even this gentle song for wannabe adolescent runaways has hidden gems in the lyrics that can put the whole idea of the song in another context… ‘Two generations ago we were leaving for war / now we’re just making the best of the things they were fighting for’.
The closing track, ‘Strange Emotion’, sets itself apart from the rest of the album. James’s soft acoustic guitar and Jake Duxbury’s mellow piano frame a beautifully short, gentle song; a snapshot of a musician’s relationship with his performance, the road, his guitar. It’s an excellent close to the album and hints at other aspects of James’s song writing that would definitely benefit from further exploration.
Diamonds & Hearts is a strong and promising debut from a performer who effuses confidence and ability. If you enjoy a taste of Americana with a clear homegrown twist, accomplished song writing and voice that can stand confidently next to some of the best in the business, then go out and buy this album. James Deane’s debut has a lot to offer, and holds the promise of more to come.
Listen to Diamonds & Hearts
Whole Heat Blue