I can tell you from experience, singer-songwriter is a tough gig. It is basically a one-person show. The artist may be a lone performer in a coffee shop, guitar in hand, trying to wrestle the attention of otherwise disinterested patrons. Or maybe they are in a recording studio with session musicians, who are paid to be there. In either case, the singer-songwriter is alone. The ultimate fate of the music rests on his or her shoulders.
For instance, no one knows Bob Dylan’s bass player’s name.
James Lee Baker has taken up the mantle of singer-songwriter. Fortunately for us, he has both the talent and confidence to rise to the challenge. His song, “First Time” is immediately relatable and singable, with hints of Pop, Country, and Americana.
Lessons from experience…
The tune is delivered as a sort of letter of advice to a young person. Maybe James is singing to someone in his life. Or maybe he is talking to his younger self. He uses familiar scenarios as examples of the fear and excitement that comes with new experiences. Learning to drive, a first dance, and a first kiss all paint the picture.
However, this is not just a feel-good story of nostalgia. Ultimately, it is delivered with a touch of melancholy. The message is, appreciate these moments while you can. Because, you will try to recapture the magic in the future, but it won’t be like the first time.
The production here is impeccable. That fact, and a little bit of dobro, adds to the Nashville lean of the sound. I wouldn’t pigeonhole James’ vibe though. “First Time” would work just as well on Pop, Hot AC, or Triple-A stations as it would at Country radio.
Check out “First Time,” and follow the links below to get to know James Lee Baker.
Here is what James says about James…
A classically trained musician, James Lee Baker fuses influences from acoustic singer-songwriters like David Mead, Ellis Paul, John Gorka, Gregory Alan Isakov, Bob Dylan, and Slaid Cleaves. He embraces open tunings to create an unconventional but welcoming sound and timbre to his playing. Trained briefly by Richard Gilewitz, a renowned fingerstyle guitar player, James Lee’s fingerstyle guitar playing is rich and melodic, pulling listeners into memorable motifs and atmospheres.
In 2017, Baker released a Texas-inspired full-length project called “Home Again.” Harnessing his experience in technology, Baker recruited talented studio session musicians, accessing performers from Los Angeles, Canada, The United Kingdom, and Denver. “Home Again” is a Country-flavored Americana album, rich with instrumentation like dobro, lap steel, fiddle, and harmonica. Current single, “Disappear for the Weekend” is receiving airplay and charting on the New Music Weekly and Airplay Today country charts. The same is also true for his previous single, “Cowtown Blues.”
In March 2018, he released an EP of Folk/Americana songs called The Canadian River. The single of the same title placed #23 on the FolkDJ radio charts in April of 2018, and the song “Two Cageless Birds” went on to be selected for the John O’Hara Songwriting Performance Grant.
James has played at several prominent venues including the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles, The Fox Theater in Boulder, and Swallow Hill and The Walnut Room in Denver.