On Saturday, June 30th James Coates had a CD release show at the Mandolin Café in Tacoma, WA for Land of Fame & Glory. The bushy-bearded, curly-haired musician chose Umber Mishra, Kurt Lindsay and Gina Belliveau to set the scene for him. I had to arrive late, missing Umber Mishra and the first half of Kurt Linsday’s set, which was unfortunate, since I have never seen Umber Mishra perform. I always look forward to the belting vocals of Kurt Lindsay and the creative covers, adaptations and originals of Gina Belliveau; however, I was ardently awaiting the performance of Mr. James Coates.
I feel like if Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams and Neil Young took the best parts of their talents and created a musical creature, we could call him James Coates. With vulnerable lyrics, undiluted emotion, a soothingly raspy voice, and fresh and pliable arrangements, the sweet sound of the harmonica looms overhead carrying our minds to distant lands.
The first time I heard James’ music 3 years ago, he was performing his last song while I was ordering a tea, only half listening and 7 or 8 months pregnant, so who knows where my mind was other than absent. He was opening up for Dave Hannon, a close friend and Tacoma musician, who recommended that I buy James’ CD. “You’d really like it, actually.” So I did…. and have since developed a beautiful relationship with the Sumner native’s creation eagerly awaiting another CD to release another uncharted section of my soul.
During my birthing classes that year, our instructor told us to make a playlist of our most comforting music—music that takes our minds off of the pain. Music that takes us into our imagination, that would be able to carry us through such an emotional and physical challenge. James Coates’ “On My Way Home” was the very first song on that playlist followed by a lot of Ryan Adams, Neil Young, Alexi Murdoch and Norah Jones. James Coates’ five song, self-titled EP fit in quite snuggly with these well-seasoned musicians. There are certain songs, within the first few notes hitting our ears, that melt our hearts and bring us to a place of peaceful melancholy or comfortable contentment. It’s not just music and they aren’t just stories… it’s a kind of storytelling that steals your attention and takes you deep into your imagination. Whether it’s to a bar on the side of the highway, train hopping across a quiet, sleeping America or to the eerily lonesome and chaotic streets of Hollywood; it’s impossible not to lose yourself in the music. In his music.
James Coates is not to be missed. His live performance is a treat for a number of reasons. One being that when you watch him sing, you can tell by his glassy-eyed stare and the subtle way he sometimes hides behind his hair, that he isn’t playing for us. He enters into the world of his songs, and it’s such a beautiful thing to witness. Another being, while it’s nice to have the familiarity of certain songs, he also takes the liberty to alter the arrangements of a few, causing his fans to melt in a whole new way. The Land of Fame & Glory is now available on iTunes and CDBaby.
James will be going on tour this summer to promote the new disc. Show up, buy a CD and experience a part of yourself you never knew existed. Full details and tour dates are available at his Reverb Nation page. I also suggest watching some of his videos, they’ll blow you away.