Peggy James is prepping for the upcoming CD release of her new album. It’s titled The Parade. But first, for those of you not yet familiar with the act in question, a bit o’ background.
Peggy James is an American singer-songwriter and musician. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to her official Facebook page, she “spent her formative years in the Southwest.”
James’ signature sound is a musical mix of multiple music genres including Americana, country, folk, pop, and even rock. Having grown up in the Southwest, her music often exhibits a desert Americana influence that helps to make her material eclectic and unique. In a recent communique, James shed some light on what inspires her.
She said: “Most of my inspiration for writing comes from observing people, places, events, and my own life experiences. When something strikes me as interesting, I try to weave a story around it and become a character in the story that makes the idea come alive—like an actor would if given a part. Then I know I’m ready to write it into a song.”
She concluded: “Usually, the words and the music pretty much appear simultaneously as a rough draft. Then I carve the song until I’m satisfied that the emotion, melody, and words express what I intended it to. The first song on the album, ‘I Go With Me’ is a perfect example of this process.”
The Parade is an 11-track album with a running time of more than 46 minutes. It is her sixth album with a physical drop date of February 18, 2022. This new release features five new recordings of previously-released songs and six new tunes written last year.
The disc explores themes concerning love, dedication, faith, perseverance, and the search for direction in uncertain times. The common thread to all these diverse ditties is that they are song-stories with roots in American country music. Here James leads the way with her acoustic guitar and vocals. She is backed by her producer and musical partner Jim Eannelli (bass, keyboards, drums, electric and acoustic guitar).
Track by Track
The album opens on “I Go With Me”. It is a clever folk-rock lead-in that focuses on the idea that sometimes people can find a sense of satisfaction and even happiness just by physically moving. It also reminds listeners that we need to come to grips with who we really are because no matter where one goes, one cannot escape oneself. Ana Vafai is introduced on the violin.
The second selection is the almost melancholic “Willow.” The song is largely like a hard-luck country cut and has a real retro feel to it. It’s an early fave of the critics too. John Calarco guests on drums.
Next, James gives listeners a “Thousand Reasons” …to keep listening. The musical feel here appears to be a blend of early Brit band sound, Nashville guitar, and an American girl group progression. It’s one of the best bits here.
It is followed by “Guardian Angel.” Previously released as a single with its own accompanying music video, this Americana-country-influenced cut has a near-timeless melody and an energy all its own. It attempts to shed some light on things during a difficult time via a sense of spiritual strength.
Also included here is “Hard Times.” It combines a meaningful message with vocal harmonies vaguely akin to the Eagles and a musical backdrop inspired by such other artists as George Harrison and John Lennon. As noted in a previous piece by yours truly it is essentially a “contemporary anthem” that holds “a message of hope with lyrics that are more unifying and less partisan.”
This catchy cut first appeared as a digital-only bonus track on her 2020 album Paint Still Wet. It sounds like James’ personal plea for a sense of sanity in our ever-changing and yet never-changing times. She seems to have a sense of hope that we will unite to build a better future. Calarco returns on the drums.
“Best In Me” follows. Some might argue it is overshadowed by the previous piece. Still, the song retains its own identity. It’s a nice, radio-ready song for someone special.
If you’ve not yet noticed, James seems to have a general willingness to explore the world and translate her personal observations into song. “So Subtle” is a memorable track complete with her own personal touch. It’s also another early fave of the critics and if you listen to the music, you might hear something roughly like the kind of songs Linda Ronstadt used to sing too.
“Joan Of Arc”, originally a stand-alone single, centers on a sense of silent strength and determination. It’s one of James’ earlier tunes and yet some might argue it is even more relevant now than when she first wrote it circa 2010. Sure, it has an almost expected underlying sense of “girl power”, but James makes it work.
The ninth number is “Indoor Cat.” It’s a song about the weather, specifically rain, and how it impacts personal plans. This tuneful tale is largely told from a feline perspective. James must enjoy a change in seasons as it seems to somehow improve the life of this indoor cat. Vafai returns on violin.
The tenth track is the light and constant “Crossroad Moment.” The song is an early fan favorite that makes listeners think about what is important in life. Calarco returns on the drums and Vafai encores once more on violin.
The closing cut is the title track “The Parade.” This rock anthem is undoubtedly the strongest, hardest cut. James’ performance remains solid and steady. Complete with Harrison-influenced guitar, this album endnote is truly a fine finale.
Overall, James continues to exhibit an almost empathic vibe in these original songs. The album is a collection of individual and individualistic songs with audio identities indicating the ebb and flow of inspiration and the need to strike while the iron is hot. The new songs will please her fans and the re-recorded numbers sound better than ever yet retain their initial charm.
It is a presentation of different songs held together solely by the solitary and steadfast presence of the artist herself. So, check out Peggy James’ The Parade because, well, there are a “Thousand Reasons.” (Wasn’t that “So Subtle”?)