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MP3 Chris James - Medicated

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Intimate, emotional, hook-laden songs that will enter your head through your ears and stay there for a lifetime.

14 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Acoustic, FOLK: Folk Pop

THE word
by Diane Coetzer. August 4th, 2003
The long journey of the South African singer-songwriter:

Maybe it¹s got something to do with those many nights my beloved Dad used to
drag my sister, Catherine, and me off to the Durban Folk Club when we were
teenagers and the ³death to disco² sticker that was proudly pasted on our
cupboard door. Or perhaps it was the joy at having the likes of Pete and Syd
Kitchen playing guitars in our lounge whilst my Dad fiddled with the
reel-to-reel and we watched, entranced. The truth is, I¹m a true sucker for
the singer-songwriter. Yup, that¹s right ­ give me a beautifully wrought
song, rendered on an acoustic guitar, accompanied by little more than
emotional laden vocals and I¹m hooked, baby.

It¹s probably why a great deal of my music of choice (well, when I¹m not
belting out ³move your body like a snake² with Mr R. Kelly ­ see last week¹s
piece!) is centred around those genres that put the singer and the
songwriter right up front. I¹m talking Americana and albums like the utterly
brilliant Both Sides Now, a double CD (available on import on BMG) that will
leave you weak at the knees with joy and believing in the fact that there
are Americans out there whose lives are as far from that portrayed by
President Bush and his media as you can get ­ but let¹s leave that for
another day.

What¹s important here, in this country at the tip of Africa, is the
difficulty ­ perhaps challenges is a better word ­ that singer-songwriters
working in this musical landscape face.

Hands up those of you who have encountered the music of Chris James? For
sure, it¹s probably only a dozen or so who could answer yes to this ­ and
that¹s probably those of you who are regulars at the Linden Songwriter¹s
evenings in Johannesburg. But James (now working with a group of musicians
going under the moniker The Chris James Band) is surely one of the most
gifted songwriters currently working in South Africa.

His debut album, Medicated (available at gigs since no major record company
has been clever enough to sign him) is an astonishing recording, full of
lush and limpidly beautiful songs that will S well, also leave you weak at
the knees. With all songs written by James, Medicated is up there with the
current crop of singer-songwriters making waves on the global scene (check
out Jack Johnson¹s On and On, Universal Music, and the more mainstream John
Mayer, Sony SA).

If you can get hold of this release (send a mail to rob@
then head directly to track four for a musical experience of the most
sublime kind. Titled ³Eloise² this is how songwriting should be ­ a place
where melodies, hooks and lyrics join together to create a memorable whole
that you will have difficulty ejecting from your head. And there are another
13 musical delights to enchant you for years to come on Medicated.

That the album was recorded at all is worth commenting on. Let¹s face it,
here in South Africa, the market for indie music, especially of this kind,
is not huge which means that major record companies are unlikely to release
an album like Medicated ­ in spite of its quality. In James¹ case, he met
Rob Luce (who runs The Cooler Recording Studio in Johannesburg) who
produced, recorded and mixed Medicated on the teeniest of budgets and the
two now face the challenge of getting the songs into the public
consciousness through radio and television (which is just about as arduous
and difficult a task as scaling Mount Everest, Michelle Constant¹s efforts
on SAFM aside).

And so grassroots gigging and shifting units at shows is where the Chris
James Band is right now which is great and admirable and necessary and all
that. But it¹s also wrong: a singer-songwriter as gifted as James should be
celebrated, and brought into the public eye and revered on a platform
alongside other greats, like Vusi Mahlasela and Baaba Maal even. But then
again, maybe I¹m just an old folkie at heart.

Band Bio

Chris James sells books for a living. In his spare time he locks himself in a room and applies his musical genius to songwriting and the development of his vocal and guitar technique. Chris first exercised these skills as the frontman for Mantis Project, a professional touring band that split up in 1997.

About a year ago Chris went to Rob's studio to record seven acoustic tracks which completed a personal project he was working on at the time. Chris was so impressed with the quality and professionalism he experienced at The Cooler that he asked Rob about forming a band to record some new material. Rob, a drummer/percussionist with experience in rock, jazz and classical music, liked the idea and asked his friend, Chevy if he would round out the trio with his bass. Chevy, who had already been playing with Rob in various groups for the past year, seized the opportunity. Chris James had his band. Several months later he had his album, Medicated.

The band is now focused on promoting Medicated and has just procuced an EP called "On Empty".

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