We all know J. from Resurrectionsongs, a big part of our Community here on WordPress. On top of maintaining that super-cool blog, and being a newly-minted daddy (congrats to you all, and welcome to the world, wee yin!!), J. makes records. They’re wonderful. I’ve reviewed a couple of his others, Ten Fires and I’m Not Lost, in these pages. I’m already big a fan. 🙂
So when word came down that Pray For Rain was wrapping up and would soon be available, I immediately and excitedly placed my order. I got my copy in December. We’re going live February 1st because the idea (thanks, Geoff!) was to get a bunch of us together and drop reviews all on the same day. And here we are!
So. Can I tell you a secret? I’ve written this review (at minimum) three times. Some things have carried over from each draft to now, but I have waited a long time to post this, and so I spent a lot of time chipping away at it. Not only did I want to get it right, to do right by J. and the band, but I also kept hearing new things with each successive spin (and there have been many, by now). But, as I told my lovely wife, eventually I was going to have to set it free and put it out there. I’ve revised and reread the damn thing so much I hope now that I didn’t forget anything or screw it up. 🙂
The Perpetrators Of All This Glory:
Stuart Begley – lead guitar
Tommy Clark – drums
Frankie Coia – bass guitar
Jim Dead (J.) – vocals and guitar
Ah, Pray For Rain. To say I loved it, right off the top, still feels like Understatement Of The Year to me. But it had to be said. Let’s get to it:
Wooden Kimono stomps along with a happy groove, very reminiscent of earlier tracks but updated and with more of a rock edge to it all. It has lift, it has grit, it has strength. It’s a brilliant album opener, priming me for more.
May The Road Rise is another rocker, and already I can tell we’re entering new territory with this record. That bluesy guitar line draws the ear and won’t let go, that menacing second line is rock solid, paired with the buoyant drums, and J.’s go for broke vocals over the top… total killer. I hear Soundgarden in this (and that’s a GREAT thing).
Pray For Rain keeps that beautiful rock chug going. The drums are all over this title track, holy hell, and as a former drummer myself boy do I love that (well done, Tommy Clark)! The lyrics tell a helluva tale and this is a keeper for sure.
Holding The Line is super-slinky bluesy glorious, part Southern raunch and part Meat Puppets. I friggin’ love this track. Love.
Lovesick Blues pounds and rolls us into an STP/AIC-yet still very much their own sound bliss-out. And that ending. Holy shit. YES!
Trains is super-short and fun, with an almost native American vibe to it, somehow. Cool intermission!
Crows On The Wire brings the country blues stomp with a busy guitar line and a swingin’ dance party feel to it. Was this made in Scotland or Tennessee? It matters not. Friggin’ gorgeous.
Home takes us back to earlier efforts, shedding the rock out approach to bring us a mighty fine story and a sweet, gentle build that would totally be at home on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. As the song winds on, J. starts to get a bit unhinged, and it is glorious and serves the song perfectly.
You Coulda Said is another slicing electric guitar blues that threatens at every turn and barely restrains itself. Those vocals, J.! Hot damn! But this is a full band track, and they’re nailing it. What a bruiser. What sheer delight!
I’m Not Lost (also the title of his 2013 EP) is one king hell of an album closer. They go for bluesy motherfucking broke, soaring and crashing, snarling and wailing, caressing and pleasing… Holy shit. HOLY SHIT! I am so in love with this track.
I dropped (probably a few too many) comparisons to other bands, here. They’re meant simply as descriptors, not at all that Jim Dead & The Doubters are stealing from or trying to be any of those other acts. These guys are strong on their own, thank you very much, and hereby established as a class act and they occupy a deserved place of honour all their own. It isn’t fair to go back and compare this album to previous work, but I will say that this is a definite growth, a step in a new direction while still holding tight to the original values. This is friggin’ outstanding work.
As with the other CDs, the sound is great, the songwriting is stellar (seriously), the playing is out of this world (whoa!), and I really cannot enthuse enough about what this band of (surely) mighty fine fellows are doing. As I listened, I imagined what this would sound like in a smoky, dark, sweaty basement club and knew right away that this stuff would send them over the top and into stardom. If I was in charge of a major record label, I would already have these guys’ signature on a dotted line and I’d be giving them free reign to conquer the music world.
I cannot recommend this enough. I do not have a number rating system on this blog, but if I did, Pray For Rain is at least a 12/10.
Buckle up a second time today, dear KMA Readers, for here once again we honour one of our own!
The brilliant J. of Resurrection Songs has a band, and they make incredible music. Through the negotiations over payment for the Grail List Neko Case record I found for him and sent across the pond to him, he sent me Jim Dead’s album (the highly recommended Ten Fires) and this EP! This is a real gift, indeed! You can keep up-to-date on news from the band here at their web site!
Jim Dead – I’m Not Lost (EP) (2013)
Picking up from right where Ten Fires left us wanting more, Steady Us leads us into this EP with a western acoustic and tremolo gorgeousness. I swear, there’s a sensibility and feel here that just hits that right note! Nine Years is up next, with a strummy acoustic over top of a distorted guitar wash, to make sure we remember that everything has an edge. “Wake me up before I hit the ground…” and then that eerie howl at the end… Whoa!
Gold + Silver, through the good headphones, brings Jim’s voice right up close and personal as the acoustic strums away in the background. It’s the vocals and his message that have the weight here, and it’s fantastic. That line “in someplace north of here” has a special resonance in a Canadian’s heart. After all, we have a lot of north, here! Giving Up The Ghost brings back the bluesy dirt stomp that would sound so great coming out of a jukebox in a desert town roadhouse full of bikers. Hot damn, I love this style. This is Tarantino soundtrack material!
Stealing A Mile is another sweltering-sun slow tune with the most satisfying low notes, oh man. I totally dig the slide electric. What a great tune, seriously! And finally it’s the slow ache of Head Full Of Booze. Ha, we’ve all been there, and this song totally captures that feel. This is pure country, drunk and she’s leavin’… oh hells yes.
I said it in my Ten Fires review, earlier today, and I’ll say it again now: Jim Dead is my favourite new-to-me act. These songs have so much feel, a real genius to the layering of instruments. Genius, you say? Yes, true artists can make powerful things seem effortless, and Jim Dead is indeed doing that with aplomb.
Thanks SO much, J.!
Buckle up, dear KMA Readers, for here we honour one of our own!
Yes, the brilliant J. of Resurrection Songs has a band, and they make albums! Through the negotiations over payment for the Grail List Neko Case record I found for him and sent across the pond to him, he sent me Jim Dead’s album and EP! I cannot even begin to express my excitement over this. I’d heard a couple of tracks on their web site, but to have the full CDs here is a gift indeed!
Jim Dead – Ten Fires (2011)
Scrolling through the radio stations to static and then the acoustic strums of intro track Silence Has No Place Here show us promise. Bone Blue Moon brings the rock to mirror the opener, and its pull is infectious. Deep and bluesy, an ambling pace that perfectly suits (my lovely wife rightly pointed out that it has a train quality to it. Hear it and you’ll know what she means!). I absolutely love the chorus, that brief raise of voice, aw yeah! “Tonight I’m a gamblin’ man,” indeed!
Before I Die slows things down and cranks up the bluesy menace. Holy man, this song has weight! Don’t be fooled by the pretty guitar arpeggios, this song has an atmosphere all to itself and it’s a beautiful thing. I love how the ride cymbal picks up just as his voice goes for the yell… Up next is a tune I’d pick for a single, Coffee And Cocaine. What makes the day bearable? You guessed it! Oh man, it’s a brilliant acoustic guitar tune that, if you heard it in a coffee shop or at an open mic night in a pub, you’d laugh and hoot along and swear it was the best tune you’d heard all night.
Jim Landstrom Must Die is darkly humourous, swingin’ and stompin’ it’s way through a gut-bucket blues about poor old Jim. What a riff! I don’t know what Jim did to deserve his fate, but if this song was playing while he was done for, it’d be hard to be too upset about it. Tom Waits would love this one. Up next is Hotel, which brings back the acoustic guitar, picked beautifully, and a harmonica! This is a gorgeous, quieter tune. My Heavy Heart, My Aching Bones is a folk gem. I love the slide guitar here, and when the picking acoustic hits that low note it resonates beautifully. It’s way too short, though, at only 1:25. I’m just greedy, maybe.
Wreck Of A Ship’s contemplative lyrics and gentle acoustic make this one of my favourites on the album. Deceptively simple, this tune has incredible depths. When it breaks down to just the vocals, my jaw drops every time. This would be another pick for single, if I had a say! I’ve actually already added this tune to a CD-R mix of tunes for the car. It sounds great in there too! Up next is Untitled, which slinks its way gently into being with a great (great!) guitar line, and when that bass picks up, oh my. It’s not in any hurry, and that’s just fine by me! This is another Tom Waits tune in disguise, totally addictive.
Mean-Eyed River Snake swings so brilliantly, the blues just drips from it. The drums, that guitar solo, the lyrics, that breakdown at the end… I love the chuckle at 3:57. It’s just perfect, all around. …Are You Still Listening brings back the acoustic instrospection beauty. The songwriting here is among the best I’ve heard in ages (and the whole album through). Listen to those lyrics. Yes! I am still listening! I’m still there! And finally, it’s The Hallelujah Revolver, which by itself has one of the best song titles in forever. The electric picks up the acoustic’s role here, which adds an energy and sustain to the riff. But then it all falls down to just vocals before hitting the build and then that wail for the pay-off… Have I mentioned before about how the songwriting here is brilliant?
This. This is a cohesive, brilliant piece of work. This is authentic, dusty, bluesy beauty. This is going down as one of my favourite new-to-me albums of 2015. And I’m not just saying that because J.’s in our blogging community. No. This CD is THAT fucking good. Wow. WOW.