Most people like a good story. The release of the double album At Longview Farm and When You Get Old by Jemima James is a good one.
At Longview Farm was recorded in 1972 and apparently was just shelved. Back then you really needed the support of a label to get your music heard. Years would pass and in 2004 Team Love’s two founders (Conor Oberst & Nate Krenkel) met with Willy Mason who was Jemima James’ son. I surmise that through their initial meeting they discovered the unbridled talent of Jemima James and got to sign more musicians than anticipated. When You Get Old was recorded in 2015 and between the two albums there is a thirty-six-year span.
I’ll say this upfront that both albums are great and have a timeless quality. Both albums have a traditional folk foundation but elements of country, Appalachian music and more peek through. You can make a case that there are some similarities to Vashti Bunyan but I would argue that James’s music in general feels more joyful and hopeful. There are strains of melancholy but they are massaged by a sense of solace.
I started with At Long View Farm. The album starts with “Sensible Shoes” and is a song that perfectly combines emotions of hope and melancholy to create a sense of nostalgia. The instrumentation is exceptional but this song like the others revolves around her vocals. I’m not going to explain the details of why her voice is so emotionally resonant because it’s better just to listen. I have little doubt you will enjoy what you hear.
“Havana Cigar” is up next which has a little more energy than the opener. You are even greeted with a modest guitar solo and some effective drum work. The energy from “Havana Cigar” continues into “Easy Come Easy Go” which not only felt like the single on the album but had an overt ’70s vibe. The chorus is infectious and instantly memorable.
The Spanish spoken “Esperate” also has a traditional Spanish vibe while “One More Rodeo” is perhaps the most upbeat, jovial song on the album. The album continues with great songwriting and exceptional delivery. “Waiter at the Station” is the minimal closer that might have you in tears if listened to in the right light.
Now let's jump to When You Get Old. James embraces her age with the title track. It feels downright celebratory in the saloon style romp kind of way. Sailors are swinging their sweetheart in the local bar before they have head back to the battlefield.
“Magician” and “Beaver Moon” are more emotionally resonant and contemplative while “If It’s The End” has powerful lyrics. She sings, “And if its the end its not the only end let it begin let it unfold again.” There are a couple of songs from At Longview Farm that she re-envisions. “Sensible Shoes” and “Easy Come Easy Go” have more low-end and have enough factors to listen to both versions. She closes with “Nothing New” which is a borderline haunting song that spews with emotion.
Thanks to Team Love these two gems will finally get some ears. It kind of makes you wonder what other exceptional music is sitting on shelves in dusty rooms. I’m sure there is a lot to be discovered. Hopefully, Jemima James will get the recognition she deserves that may have been a long time coming.
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