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James Apollo - Good Grief

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 26 / 4 / 2006



James Apollo - Good Grief
Label: Select Label
Format: CD

intro

Flawed, but ultimately impressive Americana from new singer-songwriter which will appeal to fans of 16 Horsepower, Giant Sand and Calexico


It’s always a bit puzzling why artists start an album with a piece called ‘Prelude’. With ‘Good Grief’ James Apollo goes a step further and opens his album with ‘Prelude, Colonel Travis’ but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. It’s still 1 minute 20 seconds of sound which doesn’t make much sense, but then maybe I’m missing something. Maybe the idea is for the short instrumental to get the listener in the right frame of mind for the 12 songs which follow but the album could just have easily opened with track 2, ‘The Alamo’ and yes, I know the connection between the Alamo and Colonel Travis. I just feel that any album that opens with a short instrumental, no matter how relevant the title is to the following song, is another short pointless instrumental I don’t need to hear again. It is a real shame because, if the album opened with that second, proper song, I would have been impressed right from the off instead of being annoyed. So forgetting that shaky start, what Apollo has achieved with the remaining 12 songs is quite remarkable. It seems Apollo has his feet planted in a number of different genres, standing firmly on that Americana soil but with handfuls of blues, spaghetti western, Latin and country thrown in. And that’s just for starters. It’s been noted before that Tom Waits hangs heavy over Apollo’s work and that’s true to a certain extent. But Apollo has a much more accessible voice than Waits which will broaden his appeal and he doesn’t bury his melodies deep in the song for others to pull out. In fact on the fourth track, ‘Dead Men Weigh (More Than Broken Hearts)’, Apollo leaves the spookiness of much of his material behind and produces something which is, dare we say, radio friendly. His pop sensibilities are also to the fore on the following song, ‘Libertyville'. With that spaghetti western guitar, strange percussive noises and Apollo turning in his best vocals on the album, it’s an undisputed highlight. But while those more immediate songs are obviously the first to register the sultry eeriness of songs like ‘Long Rope’ which take longer to get under the skin are more rewarding in the long run and a good reason to keep returning to the album. ‘Long Rope’ is a slow atmospheric piece, which builds into a frenzy and is quite effecting. That this song is followed by ‘Neko’ where again Apollo blends a good shot of pop into the mix just shows how good he is at combining genres. The same could be said of the closing song, ‘Good Grief’. Here Apollo really shines. It has a stunning melody, a nagging rhythm, and is the most upbeat song on the album. Saving the best for last? More than likely. Fans of 16 Horsepower, Giant Sand and Calexico will feel at home here and find much to treasure.



Track Listing:-
1 Prelude, Colonel Travis
2 The Alamo
3 Spring Storm
4 Dead Men Weigh More
5 Libertyville
6 Long Rope
7 Mercenary Tango
8 Neko
9 Loneliness
10 Three Birds
11 Slow Burn
12 All The Pretty
13 Good Grief



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