Joburg musician Jamie Acheson may own the hardest-working plectrum in show business. He is a force of nature who thrashes the hell out his guit. Whether solo, two-piece, or as a power-trio, his live performances generate so much energy it’s refreshing to behold.
No frills, straight-ahead acoustic rock is his style. But jeez, he goes for it, hey.
A Naming James show will restore your faith in the power of music. Jamie with his hat on, demonising his acoustic, tight as Lego with his trusty sidemen and just racing through dozens of these short, sweet and epic pop gems that he writes.
He’s an excellent songwriter, but there’s no tortured complexities about his tunes. It’s all strummed chords, huge, tonsil-shredding vocals and raw, stage-stomping power willing the crowd to just bloody well get into it.
So you wonder whether all of that will translate on record. When the Into The Night album arrived, we were almost ambivalent about listening to it, lest it cheapen our memories of that blazing live festival at The Library in Sandton where we last caught Jamie.
To be honest, recordings will never quite generate the same reciprocal energy that concerts do, but they can still be worth a listen. Encouragingly, this one is co-produced with Jay Bones of Fuzigish.
Fuzi, those legendary joburg ska-punks are also in the high-energy rock game, and have captured that dynamism on record a few times. Bottled the genie, as it were.
So it’s an inspired production partnership.
The resulting album is a thrilling document of the Naming James musical phenomenon. It put us in the mood to go see him again, and you can imagine it being snatched up by mesmerised showgoers looking for a memento of a blazing night out in Acheson’s company.
Song length-wise, these tunes are closer to the Minutemen than Dream Theater. Straight to the point, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-cheers. Without much picking or fiddling about.
Jamie’s songwriting seems to have become simpler and more powerful, since he first showed up on an SL compilation in 2009 with the folky Fly Away.
Examples are opener Clap Hands and Best Days. Succinctness notwithstanding, Mr Acheson has also mastered the deep simplicity that is the hallmark of the best songwriting. “I come from the dark, I come from the deep, like those golden, rolling waves on the silver sea,” he tunes on the title track.
Despite their fuss-free nature, there is a poetic poignancy to the songs. You feel as if Acheson is addressing his fellow social misfits, saying, “Don’t worry we’ll be fine.”
“What we really need is something to believe,” he sings on the anthemic Find Our Way Home. “I found you on that voodoo beach, wearing the ocean, around your feet…” is another choice bit of poetics.
Wind Of Change has a Johnny Clegg-style African flavour that is quite inspiring. And it would be a travesty if he emerged from a Jay Bones project without any ska seasoning. That arrives in a subtle fashion courtesy of tracks like Lil’ Brother and Mr Kink.
So, ja. This is the real thing. Top-shelf singer-songwriting from a gifted artist who was born to do it. And based on a kick-ass live show, which is where music’s true energy sits, after all.