Old James is a Canadian rock band based in Toronto, and I originally checked them out because they were picked to open for Girlschool and Crucified Barbara on their North American “Guilty As Sin” tour this spring. I figured they’d have something special to be picked for that gig, and I was right. The band’s self-titled debut EP was released in 2014, and it’s an impressive and very promising release from this young band, crafting a dynamic rock’n’roll sound with distinct shades of blues, funk and even jazz thrown in for good measure.
Front-man Brian Stephenson impresses right from the start with his vocals on the loose and rollicking ‘Just Be’ – a track that sparks and twists with live-energy, and features some electrifying guitar-work from Andy Thompson. There’s a soulful, heartfelt joyfulness to this track that really grabbed me.
‘Spade’ has a slower, live-jamming feel, with some impressively expressive vocals and guitar; while ‘Mystery’ has the band cutting loose on a tune with a free-flowing, jazzy vibe that brings to mind a band like Blues Pills, with that
natural and gloriously unprocessed sound and power.
Next up is ‘The Wave’ with some more terrific singing from Stephenson, and even some nice harmony vocals (always a treat!). There’s an intensity to this rocker with the guitar roiling and raging, putting some real crackling spirit and fire into the music.
Cranking up the heat even further is the final track, the sizzling ‘Don’t Put It On Me’. This is my favourite tune on the EP, a funky, bluesy, rock’n’roller of a tune with a deep and delicious groove provided by the bass and drums– making it a rather irresistible track. With the guitar flying high, and passionate vocals, the band brings it all together on this tune: definitely a great way to close out the EP and leave you wanting more.
Old James is a new-ish band, but they are not inexperienced. Vocalist Brian Stephenson previously toured with heavy metal bands Annihilator and Sanctity; while his brother and the band’s drummer Chris Stephenson, played and toured extensively with bands like Cauldron and Skull Fist.
All that experience serves the band well, and this debut EP brings some real funky, bluesy heat, and a whole lot of rock’n’roll fire. Apparently Old James has a reputation for putting on a wicked live show, and I can’t wait to see the band on stage later in May, when they open for Girlschool and Crucified Barbara in Vancouver.
Old James’ debut EP is available from Amazon, iTunes and Bandcamp. You can check out their tour-dates on the “Guilty As Sin” tourhere, or keep track of all the band’s tour-dates on Old James’ Facebook page.
- Just Be
- The Wave
- Don’t Put It On Me
- Brian Stephenson: lead vocals, guitar
- Andy Thompson: lead guitar
- Chris Stephenson: drums, backing vocals
- Jon Ublansky: bass