For the last decade or so, the SoCal-born-and-raised James has been releasing solo albums that span Folk, Country, Pop, Rock, ethnological and gently experimental realms, an intriguingly mixed bag of music that marked her as a crafter of that near-mythical California Sound. She’s a smart, Pop-minded visionary unfettered by the rules of Pop tradition, offering music and a persona radiating a sun-warmed sense of the unconventional.
Sea Glass is a post modern Folk-Rock beauty that has been co-arranged by Sean O’Hagan (High Llamas, Stereolab, Super Furry Animals), who connected to James’ Topanga Canyon studio from London via transatlantic Skype sessions. To James’ songs he brought a wondrous batch of his trademarked piquant string settings and all manner of unclichéd keyboard and guitar embellishments plus a lot of invaluable advice for James on how to freshen up her composing process, such as writing her songs on piano rather than her customary guitar .
O’Hagan sees James as roughly aligned in that American tradition of Folk-Pop artists of the ‘60s such as Judy Henske and Nancy Priddy, whose tunes had a “future” edge of experimentation but definitely belonged to the American folk tradition.
Strewn stylistically and lyrically all over the creative map, the sublimely melodic songs on Sea Glass include James’ plaintive pleas on behalf of the ecosystem (‘Poseidon’s Daughter’), a call for resilience in a time of war (‘Ay Manzanita’), life-contemplating train rides to work (‘Truth or Consequence’) and the sad truths of a past love gone real wrong (‘Last Song’). In any of these varying emotional terrains, she deploys a crystalline voice to ring out like a bell in her evocatively literary messages.
The Sunstone vinyl (aquamarine limited edition with insert ) will be released on June 16th 2019 and comes remastered with an extra newly recorded track.
Susan James’ Sea Glass is the real California sound, an all-embracing kind of music that breaks rules, hears new textures, sees new shapes and roams new harmonic and melodic terrains. Dig a bit and you’ll find that it’s not a stretch to say it’s as much a California classic music as the disparate strains of Terry Riley, Harry Partch, The Beach Boys and Captain Beefheart. It’s all about musical freedom –– and doing something genuinely new. “ – John Payne, LA WEEKLY