REVIEW: Brandon James — Soul Sessions Live (EP)
Brandon James isn’t holding back with the mic in his hands for the song “This Aint Love,” one of the staple works of his new EP Soul Sessions Live, but if you think his moxie is going to be isolated to this one track, you’re in for quite the surprise when listening to this incredible new record. So many of the crossover soul/pop works I’ve reviewed in 2021 have fallen back on retro themes as a means of bridging aesthetical gaps and appealing to a more hip-hop-minded generation, but that isn’t the case in Soul Sessions Live.
James isn’t looking to take the route of Ronnue in this work; he’s cutting away the throwback influences and getting to the core elements that make his voice such a profound point of interest no matter what the kind of song he’s singing is. There are no virtuosic instrumental components here, nor a sense of arrogance that would normally accompany a singer with the kind of talent this man has — it’s just a performer beside his band doing God’s work, and potentially raising the profile of a frontman in James who needs to be getting a lot more attention than he has lately.
“Yesterday” is probably my favorite Beatles song of all time, and as adverse as I tend to be about cover tracks, this one that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the first time I listened to it over the past weekend. James isn’t just attacking the melody with his linguistic strength; he’s putting soul into it much as McCartney did when he recorded this masterpiece so many years ago.
“Untitled” showcases a lot of the same punch that we hear in the cover, but with a slightly jazzier bottom-end, as if to give us a hint of what the club vibe would feel like with this player at the helm of the stage. He’s got so much presence in this record, and I’m very curious to hear how it plays out in person for myself. There aren’t many who can rock the big rhythm he does in “Untitled,” and I’m seriously jealous of those who got to see this firsthand for the recording.
Whether it be the ramshackle grooving of “Everytime” or the elegance of “This Aint Love,” you can be certain that Brandon James has got something moving to present to you this autumn through his new EP Soul Sessions Live. He’s got a lot of buzz surrounding his career at the moment largely thanks to a positive critical reception from the American underground, but I don’t see where he couldn’t break out of the indie circuit for the mainstream so long as he continues to break off incredible content like Soul Sessions Live.
It’s a timeless kind of a record and one that makes sure to leave a mark on anyone who listens to it (especially those who consider themselves as much of an enthusiast for good quality soul music as I do in my personal and professional life).