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Darrin James Band

The Lovely Ugly Truth

(Bridge Street; US: 6 Oct 2009; UK: 6 Oct 2009)

Strong songs, strong band, strong effort

“I’ve been haunted by a checkered past”, growls Darrin James in what is probably the strongest underlying theme of this album. When he’s not mired in his own apologies, he’s calling that woman out for being as messed up as he is. That kind of theme could get old fast, except James has a handful of musical gems on hand to keep things fresh, and for the most part his lyrics are every bit up to the task. “Someone to Depend On” and the title track are probably the two highlights; both stir the ashes of a failed relationship with wit and smart wordplay.


James has a raw and expressive voice that can at first be jarring, but it does suit his material. His cadence in “I Was Wrong” makes him sound like Neil Diamond on a bender, while the voodoo blues of “Baby Don’t Bitch” might bring Captain Beefheart to mind. But when he settles in on something more pensive (“Shallow Grave”), he can float the timbre and wisdom of John Prine. It’s a nice chameleon act, so when he rolls into Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”, it fits hand in glove.


The band has a solid organic sound throughout, an impressive credential considering the scope includes everything from gospel and murder ballads to primal rock and country blues. Some stinging guitar, subtle strings, and a great use of the horn section helps grab your attention from track to track. A very nice surprise.

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