Nemo James’ ‘The Minstrel’ features attractive songs that might not appeal to everyone
When your job involves reviewing albums, you find yourself opening your tastes up beyond where they may have been before you started.
With that in mind, after listening to Nemo James’ new album “The Minstrel,” I couldn’t fully embrace it in a personal way, but, I appreciate it’s musical style, lyrical beauty and technical mastery. It’s just not my cup of tea.
James, a British singer based in Croatia, sounds a bit like James Taylor and a bit like Nick Drake or Joshua Radin. He fuses acoustic folk with country and bits of blues blended in as well.
Most of his songs follow that same laid-back approach that’s lifted Mr. Taylor into an American icon. And really that’s the central idea that carries over from song to song. Some more than others.
One of the best songs on the album has to be “Pride,” thanks to an incredible female guest singer. Although she’s un-credited, her voice contrasts James’ in a way that made me wish she appeared on more of the songs.
Another favorite, “Forbidden Fruit,” sees James painting a vivid picture with his lyrics. The chorus is simple yet effective, and the low-key backing guitar does enough to keep the song going along well.
The opening track, “Dreamer on the Run,” sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s got a mysterious feel and a great chorus that’s probably the best one on the entire album. The line, “He’s Just Another Dreamer on the Run,” reveals just enough without giving away too much of what the song’s about. It’s also quite juicy in that, as you listen to the rest of the song, you start to make out a bit more of what the song means. I found it sticking in my brain in a way that good music should.
Then, as he sings, “His family giving up the bottle, he’s left alone to earn his drinking days …. look at his children, look at his wife, and look at the way he’s destroying their life” it’s clear that this song refers to an alcoholic on the brink of ruining his relationships.
Why he’s called a “dreamer” is never quite explained, but perhaps it’s because that’s all he has left in his life. Whatever the reason, though, it’s a compelling song that’s worth multiple listens.
Aside from those songs, there’s more than a few tracks on the album that just don’t do much to separate themselves. I found myself skipping over several of them, in fact, only because nothing really attracted me to them. Perhaps adding some kind of instrument, or additional vocalist would have helped those songs some. Or, maybe, as I said at the top of the story, it comes down to the fact that this genre isn’t quite my cup of tea.
In the end, though, that’s really the only downside to this album — it’s not going to touch everyone in the same way.
You might love all of the songs, or you might hate all of them. That’s why music is so subjective, in fact. Because when someone, like Mr. James, puts out a well-produced album that displays solid musical skills both as a performer and a songwriter, then, if you’re a music fan in general, there will be something on this album you can respect, even if you don’t love it.
And that’s really all that’s left to be said. I respect this album, but I don’t love it. Despite this, however, I found myself singing bits of several of the tracks to myself long after I had stopped listening to them. So in that way, you could gauge this album as a success.