by Sean Jewell::
James Coates’ voice is a raspy gift, his guitar playing is comforting and intuitive, and his songwriting has been mature well beyond his years since he was in his early 20s. It’s as if James was a fully developed folk singer when I stumbled on him busking in Seattle’s Pike Place Market a decade ago. I stopped in my tracks at the carry and tenderness of his voice. He played a cover of The Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down”. Back then his album 22 Blues was all you could get (since then he’s released another excellent full length, Land Of Fame And Glory). Coates strummed with game and swore off fame like he’d lived at Chateau Marmot himself, like Dylan’s nightmare addictions had been his own, like he’d survived a lifetime of tempestuous rock n’ roll, and stabs to the heart from Hollywood ingenues. He was all of 24 then. I can’t think of a single song in his catalog I’d leave on the production floor. I can’t even think of a lyric I’d lose.
All this to say Coates has a new single, and we’re better for it. “This Town” is probably about Coates’ own Seattle suburb, and asks “What am I gonna do? If I ever make it outta this town?” Coates is still wistful and as lost in his emotions, but his band is bigger now, his sound closer to the amalgamation of his careful study of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Elton John, Bob Dylan. This time, like those guys, he’s seeking a way to take his music on the road and stay there. Like good old fashioned rock n’ roll Coates’ music has several movements within songs. Organ jangling acoustic open the song open the song, pedal steel joins in the second verse, and in the third verse a harmonious chorus joins, piano twinkles, the song swells continuously until the end growing on your with every bar.
James Coates new album The American is due out in the Spring of 2018.