Waz E. James - Noisy Trucks (Gravel Road Records)
As endorsements go, legendary musician John Beland coming out to Australia – his first trip to the country in almost a decade - to produce your new album must rank highly. I saw Beland a few years ago with his band and he’s a first-rate musician with a pedigree that includes leading The Flying Burrito Brothers and working with Kris Kristofferson and Linda Ronstadt. Although he displays a likeable, easy stage craft, he gives the impression of being a serious man who’s played and recorded with the best and has every intention of continuing in such a manner. I suspect he doesn’t get involved with a project unless he sees talent and potential, and lots of it.
So, a huge stamp of approval for Waz E. James and his music, and it only takes a couple of spins of “Noisy Trucks” to hear why Beland got excited. James’ voice is intensely rich and measured, he sings with plenty of emotional depth, and makes each syllable count. Fortunately his songs are as good and as interesting as his voice. The title track leads the way, and the sound is full and dense, and James’ words simultaneously provide and carry the load. In comparison “Car Wreck” is positively ebullient and James’ voice takes on a Dylan-esque aspect that is at once appealing and welcome. To further muddy the water, the inviting country-rock rhythm of “Angels” brings to mind JJ Cale. Overall, “Noisy Trucks” is a warm and convivial collection. Beland must take some credit for the finished product, but the raw materials are all James’, and it’s those base elements that make this album so noteworthy.