Jemima James – At Longview Farm
Jemima James – At Longview Farm
Jemima James spent the last half of the 1970’s working at Longview Farm Studios spending time around some of the era’s great performers and artists. She harbored talents and ambitions of her own that lead to writing and recording material she intended for her debut album, but the songs were never released. She soon stepped away from the music industry altogether, married, and pursued her living in another way. She continued writing songs during this time period and one of her children, Willy Mason, inherited his parents’ youthful passion for pursuing a musical career. He told his new label Team Love Records about his mother’s unreleased album from thirty plus years ago and, suitably intrigued, label founders Connor Oberst and Nate Krenkel pursued the tapes and have ensured that this lost classic of 1970’s folk rock sees a proper release. At Longview Farm has ten songs that dabble in a number of styles but rely, primarily, on James’ obvious command of the Americana genre.
Some of that aforementioned dabbling can be heard on the opener “Sensible Shoes”. There are a number of musical strains running through this track and James stands out with an emotive vocal, but there’s a theatrical pop side to this track different from anything else after it. Listeners reach more typical territory with the song “Havana Cigar”, but this isn’t just some purely straight-ahead folk song. James is surrounded by first class players and their performance here is musically rich. The amiable mood of “Esperate” is one of the album’s highlights and never sounds forced at all. James adds an equally graceful vocal to the song. She and her collaborators alike take a far grittier turn on the song “Book Me Back in Your Dreams”, but the performance never sounds out of character with anything that’s come before. The use of steel guitar in the song shows off her country music influences, but there’s some blues here that mixes well.
“One More Rodeo” has a relaxed, breezy feel that’s entertaining as well as substantive. Hitting a tasteful note with this sort of arrangement is an art in itself; it’s knowing when to hang back and not play that’s more important than anything else. James’ voice is extraordinarily beautiful on the track “Jackson County” and really invests the lyric narrative with feeling and technical elegance. There’s some great bass playing on “Precious Love” that really enlivens its otherwise sedate tempo. James takes great care with her vocal on this song and the attentive phrasing contributes much to the song. At Longview Farm finishes up with the song “Water at the Station”. It’s, arguably, the straightest folk song on the entire album, but James wisely resists the temptation to go in for the big closing statement. Instead, she ends the album with the same artful brevity that defines the release as a whole.
There’s likely no greater gift that James’ son Willy Mason could bestow on her in this area than serving as her champion to make sure this album reached the world at large. At Longview Farm is quite reminiscent of other performers of the time working in a similar style, but James’ songwriting has an individualistic touch that makes listening to this album a real treat.
9 out of 10 stars