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Sun Drenched

Justin James

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Album Review

While Canada (where he was born) and Venezuela (where he had a life-changing encounter with a tiger shark) each play an important role in the origins and evolution of this sunny, high-spirited, and immensely likable singer/songwriter, it's clear from the cheery opening strains of "California" that Justin James is a SoCal boy all the way. The brightness of that happy slacker track has added illumination to sandy TV shows (Laguna Beach, Maui Fever) and East Coast-flavored programs (What About Brian) alike, but is just the beginning of the journey. "Right Here Right Now" keys the listener in to the reality that the raspy-voiced singer is a heartfelt romantic along the lines of British counterpart James Morrison, while "Love Me More" keeps that vibe going with a distinctive pop-blues influence (harmonica and B-3) included. The energetic forward-thinking acoustic romp "We Can Do Anything" is very much in the John Mayer camp, but there are touches of the classic '70s southern California sound as well, including the influence of the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and the Doobie Brothers. The odd-metered percussion, gentle flute, unique vocal approach, and retro lyrical theme of "Summertime" even channel Joni Mitchell ever so slightly. Rhythmically, James' vibes range from the upbeat and percussive jamming of "Dance Alone" to the wistful and reflective "Seven Days." While his influences are clear and the feeling generally happy, there are enough original edges to make him stand out as his own artist and a singer/songwriter to reckon with.

Sun Drenched, Justin James
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