Artist: Jemima James
Album: At Longview Farm / When You Get Old
Label: Team Love Records
Release Date: 11/04/2016
In 1979 when Jemima James was a young woman, she recorded a folk album at Longview Farm, a recording studio that launched projects from big-name artists like The Rolling Stones and more. Unfortunately, the album she recorded (aptly named At Longview Farm) was shelved and never released. Fast forward nearly four decades later: In 2015, James recorded another album, When You Get Old, in the Catskills. A few months ago, Team Love Records released two bodies of work from one voice, decades apart, on a double album release.
At Longview Farm opens with the jingling ballad “Sensible Shoes”, sparse in its instrumentation but highlighting James’ mature, distinct voice even as a young woman. The theme on the record seems to be storytelling, as James often introduces a certain character then sings their story, like when describing an Irish man working to live on the vibrant, upbeat “Easy Come Easy Go” and the lonely battles of a man named Johnny who had a tough life on the lyrically despondent but vocally strong “Jackson County”. Next, “Precious Love” shines as one of James’ best tracks complete with a soulful, catchy hook and a classic blues-folk instrumental solo. Later, the 10-track record ends with “Waiter At The Station”, written as a collaboration between James and her partner, Michael Mason. The song is lush with stretches of soft, unobtrusive strings and a contrasting harmony.
The first record is followed by When You Get Old, recorded a year and a half ago when James was 65. “Beaver Moon” is a quick, quirky track with loads of colorful rhythms followed by a romantic cover of country singer-songwriter Blaze Foley’s “If I Could Only Fly”. Later on the record, she covers a track by her son Willy Mason and reimagines several of her own tunes, while new track “Bats In The Belfry” is swirling folk-psychedelia with sweet, buzzing rhythms and strong vocals. The album’s best work is reserved for its title track about growing old which pops and dances with blues, polka, and choral country influences as James humorously and wisely sings “When you get old / Don’t blame the young ones / Just help sew their seams / With silver thread for dreams”.
Jemima James’ double-record release is united by folk melodies, gritty vocals and talent, but differs by decades of musical evolution. Where At Longview Farm is subdued, sparse, and sometimes aching, When You Get Old is ever so slightly more modern sounding, adventurous, and sunny. Together, the albums depict James’ growth as an artist, a mother, and a person while maintaining her talent for storytelling and musical craft.