London-based singer/songwriter Melissa James kicks off her recording career with a solidly soulful debut album that has been the result of three-years of hard graft.
During that time the singer – whose voice is a finely-nuanced expressive instrument with an inherent, underlying soulfulness – has accrued a devoted fan-base thanks to her captivating live performances in and around the capital.
‘Day Dawns’ is an accomplished debut comprising mostly original material and reveals that James is a noteworthy songwriter (along with her co-writer, Ross Lorraine) as well as a strong singer. Stylistically, the album blends soul with blues, jazz, and folk to arrive at a distinctive but unclassifiable musical hybrid.
There are several standout tracks: the dreamy, languid ballad ‘Do You Remember When,’ where James’ softly-sung phrases are counterpointed by mellifluous saxophone passages; the yearning, slow-building ‘I Miss You,’ which poignantly conveys the feeling of loss and absence and features some jazz-infused trumpet passages; the blues-infused ballad, ‘Do You Remember When,’ which is powerful and atmospheric; and there’s also an absorbing rendering of Eric Bibb’s ‘Don’t Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down,’ where James demonstrates that she’s a good interpreter of other people’s material.
The album’s ear-catching opener, ‘Don’t Keep Yourself Down’ – whose hypnotic, muscular, bass line owes something to Marlena Shaw’s ‘Woman Of The Ghetto’ – is also worth singling out. The organic production style – featuring ‘real’ instruments, including a cameo by noted UK saxophonist Tony Kofi – is a bonus too and complements James’ soulful delivery. As debut albums go, this is an impressive one and bodes well for.
Charles Waring – Black Sheep Magazine, June 2012