James Velvet, Wide Awake In My Head | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

James Velvet, Wide Awake In My Head 

Album Review

(Mr. Lucky Records, CD)

New Haven, Connecticut-based singer-songwriter James Velvet is something of an institution in his own neck of the woods, having played in a long-running area band called The Mocking Birds. He has also co-hosted a music radio program there since 1986. Now performing under his own name, Velvet has released Wide Awake in My Head, a 16-track disc of "rarities" dating back to '89.

Velvet's music is firmly planted in Dad-rock territory, somewhere between the wry humor of Warren Zevon and the blue-collar boogie of Graham Parker. While a bit devoid of visceral thrills, Wide Awake nevertheless provides reliable comforts. Velvet's workmanly voice and earnest lyrics go a long way, and his unpretentious approach to songcraft is refreshing.

"Dark Wind (#2)" showcases the songwriter's more serious side. A biting little rock 'n' roll romp, the song is reminiscent of Scarecrow-era John Mellencamp. A wild guitar solo near the track's end proves that Velvet isn't afraid to cut loose and, while not quite Hendrix, it's still kind of cool. Serviceable slide work peppers "Corrina Gets Away (#1)," a bluesy number with spare percussion and rugged acoustic strumming.

Most of these tunes are instantly hummable; it's clear that Velvet has what it takes to write a catchy song. He's not terribly adventurous, though, and this record won't change the face of rock 'n' roll. "The Kindness of Friends (#2)" is enlivened by hand percussion as well as lovely female harmonies on the choruses. Once again, Velvet delivers a sturdy vocal melody that is cordial and familiar.

It's hard to know whether these cuts represent Velvet's overall body of work, as they're mostly alternate versions of stuff he had kicking around. Back in his hometown, a lot of folks probably know these tunes inside and out, however -- Velvet's got a populist vibe that many singer-songwriters would kill for.

Obviously dedicated to his craft, Velvet is a talented, if somewhat predictable, musical artist. Wide Awake in My Head's gentle rock at least makes for pleasant listening. Hear him in a solo performance this Saturday, January 22, at Radio Bean.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Casey Rea

Casey Rea

Bio:
Casey Rea was the Seven Days music editor from 2004 until 2007. He won the 2005 John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Album Review

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2021 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Advertising Policy  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation