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JAMES WILLIAM HINDLE - some reviews for the first record - 2004

From Ripsaw / Twinports weekly review:

English import James William Hindle has a unique take on folk music. This isn't the folk of the Winnipeg variety. Nor is it really of the classic Guthrie/Seeger/ Dylan American form either. Rather, what Hindle has done on his self-titled debut is combine the lush steel guitar and warm, sharp snare drum of Nashville with a songwriting sensibility that builds a bridge from the American pastoralism of John Denver to the English introspection of Nick Drake.

The album begins gently with cozy, living-room-strummed acoustic guitar, gently supported by rich, warming bass and sparse electric guitar on Down and Able. As evidenced in the opening track, Hindle's music is not a far cry from such post-modern folk artists as Mark Kozelek and his confessional songwriting with the Red House Painters, or the introspective sensibilities of Gillian Welch. Remember My Markings adds broad strokes of cello to the mix, giving Hindle a chance to highlight his intense lyricism in full. A brutally honest and beautiful take on the Bee Gees I Started A Joke stands out in particular, with Hindle's soft-spoken yet assertive vocals drawing attention to the bizarre poetics of the verses. The List of You and Me has a driving instrumental backing, violin and cello adding a plaintive edge to the song. When Hindle proclaims, "these are the days of our imperfection," he certainly can't be speaking of the work at hand. The moody Brooklyn Song- carries a tone of homesickness and longing, fitting for an Englishman who has recorded this album in San Francisco, a far place from his London dwelling. This feeling is continued and infused with regret in Sparky Marcus, along with the perfect backing-vocals of ex-Tarnation singer Paula Frazer. The album closes with a cover of Glen Campbell's Less of Me, here taken closer to its country roots with the addition of fiddle, closing the album with a promise for personal reassessment and change.

James William Hindle is an album full of warmth and promise, showcasing the strongest elements of the artist without diluting the purity of his songwriting and musical vision. While a bit short on the playing time at a scant 35 minutes, this freshman offering shows enough power and focus to leave the listener wanting more. A whole career more, in fact. - Tim Anderson

James Hindle | James William Hindle (Badman)

Yorkshire-born Hindle crossed the Atlantic to record his debut album in the legendary Haight district of San Francisco, home of Badman Recording Co. Badman supremo Dylan Magierek had included Hindle's respectful rendition of Whispering Jesse on the acclaimed "Take Me Home tribute to John Denver," and was presumably enamoured enough to offer his engineering skills and studio space to the songwriter. Whilst the presence of vocalist Paula Frazer and former American Music Club drummer Tim Mooney add marketing appeal, this is very much Hindle's album. Fragile of voice and not one to shy away from sentiment, his six original compositions sit proud beside the inspired covers of the Bee Gees I Started A Joke and Glen Campbell's Less of Me. From the slow-building intro of Down and Able, to the string-led sparseness of (Masks), the arrangements are impeccably judged, mostly built around a gently strummed, open-tuned, acoustic guitar that belies the British folk tradition, underpinned by brushed percussion, understated bass-lines and embellishments of cautious cello, restrained electric guitar and vocal harmonies. Through it all shines an undeniable pop sensibility, a wistful lyricism (And I see your face in the things we bought / And I miss you more than I ever thought) and an assurance that these songs will endure. - Comes With A Smile (UK)

James William Hindle - James William Hindle (CD, Badman, Soft pop)
5 out of 6

Calm, reflective, and poignant. On his self-titled album, James William Hindle demonstrates a unique command of his domain. His songs are strong, well constructed, and extremely mature. These compositions are based around an acoustic guitar, but the music is by no means mere folk. Instead, Hindle's sweeping melodies and well written lyrics shed spotlight on a man whose songs have an amazing depth. The vocals, while understated much of the time, come across sounding extremely sincere and unaffected. We particularly like "Remember My Markings" which features a great arrangement for strings. Interestingly, Mr. Hindle opted to cover one of our favorite tunes of all time...the extremely sad and remorseful "I Started A Joke" by the Bee Gees. The song features a lone guitar and single vocal take...and yet James somehow manages to do justice to the tune based squarely on his concentration and technical skill. We also like the subtle stylings of "The List of You & Me" and the impeccably arranged "Brooklyn Song." There are hundreds of thousands of guys out there carrying acoustic guitars on their backs...but there are few indeed who could match this young man in terms of sheer talent. Strong stuff. - Babysue


James William Hindle is a sentimental man. You can hear him pouring his heart all over his self-titled debut, a locally recorded eight-song packet of hope and acoustic yearning released on the Badman label.

The London-based singer's unabashed emotionalism puts him in good company on Badman, as the San Francisco imprint is also home to moony sad sacks Rebecca Gates and Mark Kozelek. Like those singers, Hindle has a knack for wringing emotion from a few chord changes and simple lyrics. Hindle also shares his label mates' attraction to fragile things, as evidenced by this collection of breakable ballads with titles like "Down & Able" and "(Masks)." The subtleness of Hindle's work makes his tunes feel as much like bubbles as music, with the iridescent shapes floating on updrafts of cello and tiny currents of finger-picked guitar. And where the songs soar, so soars Hindle's voice -- a deceptively meaty tenor gliding along on featherlight melodies.

If the mixture sounds saccharine, it's not. Hindle is more than just sentimental; he's also courageous. This is a man who launched his career last year by covering John Denver's "Whispering Jesse" on Badman's Take Me Home compilation. And now, in the midst of his first album, all decked out in earnestness and emotion, he has the good sense to risk everything by playing a Bee Gees song.

The song is "I Started a Joke," which comes from the Bee Gees third album, Idea. As Bee Gees tunes go, it's pretty refined stuff, but putting any Bee Gees number on a folk record is dangerous. "I Started a Joke" could have easily snuffed the candlelit mood that the rest of the album so painstakingly establishes.

Hindle's interpretation of the Brothers Gibb, though, is immaculate; the acoustic reworking excavates the song's soul while injecting an essential amount of levity into the proceedings. Hindle's willingness to blow his indie credibility with unfashionable songs (Glenn Campbell's "Less of Me" gets the same sublime treatment) helps transform a merely pretty album into something more interesting and daring. For all its brushes with schmaltz, James William Hindle manages to emerge both personal and pure -- a shimmering bubble reflecting the many facets of an intriguing new songwriter. - CHRIS BATY


Englishman crosses the sea with the doleful and dejected.

These eloquent fishers of downtrodden men and women, who do they think they are with their bait of mournful pop songs? Painting their music with the darkest shade of regret and casting their nets out into the oceans of the disenfranchised, adding their aching cellos and strumming their acoustic strings like a good heartbreaking is something we've asked for. Take, for example, the net cast by James Hindle, a Yorkshireman who owes a debt to Red House Painter Mark Kozelek. "Four weeks seem endless when you're stuck in the first one," sings Hindle on the opening track, his voice transcendently smooth and calm over spare guitar lines as he scoops up anyone with half a heart for remembering. Four stirring songs--and one Bee Gees cover--later, Hindle steps quietly into "Brooklyn," the album's crowning jewel. Built around the borders of a denatured love affair, "Brooklyn" crushes slowly and quietly, with pushed and pulled cello bows and lines like, "I see your face in the things we bought/and I miss you more than I ever thought." The album ends too soon with a Glen Campbell cover, "Less of Me." Like Kozelek, Hindle is adept at choosing the right song to rework and then reworking it resplendently. "Less of Me," with its subtle twang, would play as well next to a Gillian Welch gem as it would next to one of fellow Brit Billy Bragg's love songs or almost anything by Nick Drake. There isn't anything groundbreaking or brand new about this release. But then, when your foundations have already been broken, sometimes it's best to get swept away with what's familiar. - Laura Learmonth

Beautiful melancholy you may have missed

James William Hindle's self-titled debut on San Fransisco's Badman Recording Co. label is by now not a new record, but it is a record worth revisiting here, if for no other reason than it's release last fall was met with much less attention that one might have hoped. On paper, perhaps, it's a record easily pigeonholed by the cynic - the guy's got three names, he's from somewhere in Britain, he sings sad songs with some orchestral accompaniments - and I'll be the first to admit that the formula isn't the most novel. Syllables aside, it's got Nick Drake written all over it, and that's the name the few reviews I've read consistently seize upon.

The elements are similar, but it's a somewhat strained comparison. Nobody, and you know I mean nobody, in the past thirty years has been able to conjure the same mystical, organically alchemic sound as Drake with just voice and an acoustic guitar, but despite all of the moments in which strings so beautifully augmented his magic ("Cello Song," "River Man") there are a sorry handful of songs on Drake's first two records where he seems desperately trying to prevail in spite of accompaniment ("Poor Boy," "One of These Things First"). Hindle is the reverse: a Pink Moon by this Brit would likely become tiresome by its midpoint, so instead this debut's greatest asset is that it is a thoughtfully textured, meticulously crafted, and beautifully recorded project - a collaborative effort to the very last.

Opening on a slightly wary drum and rhythm-guitar line as a way of getting its feet wet, the lead track "Down and Able" is soon confidently scooped up by the kind of triumphantly gorgeous, blissfully straight-forward melody line that sounds simultaneously familiar and other-worldly. It's so basic that you know you must have heard it in some other context before, yet it's so immediately affecting that you know you couldn't have heard it quite this way. And in this manner, Hindle's eight tracks play themselves thoughtfully out. "(Masks)" places Hindle's confident voice behind gorgeous layers of swelling cello and violin, and the parts keep building gorgeously upon one another until percussion returns to provide stately foundation for the following track, "The List of You and Me". Much of the record's careful pacing communicates a thoughtfulness and precision that keeps it from becoming stale. Every note and harmony feels lovingly worked through, yet there is nothing clinical about it - the record conjures an image of a roomful of musicians performing their umpteenth take, playing it through again and again both to get it perfect, and because nothing outside the door quite beats what's happening inside.

One can criticize the meagerness of an eight song "full-length", but the real result is a proper album; one without a stinker (despite what you might suspect by the inclusion of a BeeGees cover) in its midst. Additionally, the eight tracks contain a rather surprising amount of diversity despite their consistency of elements: violins swoon classically on some tracks, but loosen their collars a bit for a Dirty Three-esque jam at the end ("Less of Me").

Badman founder Dylan Magierek, who has shown his recording skill by making Mark Kozelek's solo material ring somehow far fuller than one thought vocals, an acoustic guitar, and some AC/DC covers might possibly sound, can again take a deep bow here. It would be wonderful if everything Badman put out was both recorded by Magierek and accompanied by Nyree Watts' photography, as much of their catalog, including the Hindle record, already is. If you're not doing so already, I'd keep an eye on Badman's upcoming releases, or gems like the Hindle record might sadly escape under the buzz radar. - Nate Hogan, Dusted Mag 2002