Mid-West Musician James Warren

Paul Whyte


James Warren from Saint Cloud will be playing his first performances in the Twin Ports this weekend. Although this will be his debut shows in the area, Warren has caught some attention in his area having been nominated three times for “Central Minnesota’s Best Original Artist” by the Saint Cloud Times, UpNext Magazine and his fans. His new self-titled album is an upbeat display of alternative rock and pop. While the album features a full band with electric instruments, his upcoming performances will feature just him and band Tony Sylverss on acoustic guitars.

It will be interesting to see how Warren will recreate the material on the album live and acoustic because it is filled with a fair amount of layers of instruments and backing vocals.  
The second track on the album, “Go Your Own Way,” has an up-stroked reggae like rhythm guitar, but the organ, subtle keys and backing vocal harmonies really add a nice touch to the song. One thing that I noticed that is missing in the credits on the album is that there horns and keys on a most of the album and their presence definitely adds to the listening experience of the CD.
The track “Mystery” starts off smooth and airy with a lightly plucked effect saturated guitar riff and spacey keys. The song breaks away into heavy distorted guitars with some decently technical riffs thrown in. Although the song gets heavy, it stays catchy and isn’t too abrasive. The album certainly leans more towards pop although it certainly rocks in places.

The song “All I want” has a fun synth part in it and the guitar solos are tight and aren’t overdone in anyway. The recording and production decisions of how the instruments should fit on this album is well done. The musicianship in general shines throughout it.

Lyrically the songs are alright, but I have the same problem with this album that I do with a lot of pop music in that I’m not particularly moved to any specific emotion. “If you don’t know me, what the hell am I doing here? Don’t say you’re sorry, I don’t want to hear that sh*t from you‚ĶIf you don’t love me, don’t tell me that you do. Don’t say you need me because I know I’m better off alone,” goes the first two lines of the song “Fooled by You.” It’s emotional at times, but comes up a little short on creating an undeniably true feeling or telling a story. It should be noted that this song has one of the two swear words on the album. In that sense it’s pretty clean. Warren’s vocal delivery is well done overall and the backing vocals are all excellent.

The track “Easy Go” is perhaps the most upbeat song on the album which is probably due to the steel drum sound which is most likely a keyboard. It seems like a good song to start a conga line to. The final track, “K-Pro,” is also upbeat with a playful bass line. The song rocks out a bit, but as with the entire album, it is very accessible.

Overall, this CD is recorded well and if you like pop music, there’s a good chance that you will like Warren’s work. It’s hard to imagine what the songs will sound like when done acoustically; some of my favorite things about the album are the keys and electric guitar work. “These acoustic shows in particular maintain a certain level of energy while creating an enjoyable atmosphere and offering up a more intimate look and listen inside each song,” wrote Warren in a press release.

The packaging of the album is pretty minimal, it’s just a white cardboard sleeve. The front image is an illustrated stereo in between a pair of headphones. The back credits some members, but not everything is accounted for for what’s happening on this album that has plenty of instrument arrangements in it.   
Warren will be playing at Fitger’s Brewhouse on Friday, December 7 and then at Amazing Grace in Canal Park on Saturday, December 8.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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