Here at Blabber’n’Smoke we’ve been big fans of James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band since first hearing their debut album The Tower back in 2014. Since then we’ve been impressed by live performances and especially their second album, High Fences, released in 2017. It’s been a bit of a wait for album number three to pop up but here we have it in the shape of Highlights of the Low Nights and it’s fair to say that it’s been well worth the wait.
There’s always been more than a hint of classic California sounds in their previous albums and Highlights Of The Low Nights doesn’t shy away from revisiting this fertile ground. And while at times the band sound as if they were flying high on Asylum Records back in the days, they’ve added more soul to the mix which recalls the likes of Delaney & Bonnie and the relatively obscure Stoneground. There’s a lot of Memphis swampiness flowing throughout the album, primarily via the keyboards. Gasoline, riding on top of a fine guitar groove and funky electric piano, opens the album in a stealth like manner, the tension gradually building as the song progresses, albeit with the band initially sounding as if they are riding on the slipstream of The Doors, circa LA Woman. Edwyn’s voice is perfectly complemented by the harmonies from Emma Joyce and their vocals throughout are one of the defining elements of the album, heard to full effect on the funky Is It Enough which has a punchy horn section along with swathes of Hammond organ.
Tracks such as Buy Me A Ticket and Because Of You sound quite immense as the band pile in with their instruments set to stun, the latter achieving a Springsteen like level of intensity. Jeremiah, as biblical sounding as its name suggests, is a mini epic. Again, a Doors’ like introduction leads into a portentous heavy weight slice of southern rock’n’roll, half Dr. John, half Drive By Truckers, half Delaney & Bonnie (OK, three halves we know but they still add up to a great song). It’s followed by Love Too Late, a much simpler song but one which packs a fine melodic and vocal punch and which recalls their earlier album, High Fences as the instruments spiral towards the end.
The band kind of hunker down into an alt-country corner on the splendid Stargazer which reflects The Jayhawks while Blue goes the whole hog with a Neil Young like lonesome harmonica wailing over a wearied backbeat, although it’s fair to say that Edwyn’s voice carries much more soul in it than old Neil could ever manage. And, speaking of Neil Young, we have to mention the sparkling Sometime We Fade, wonderfully sung by Edwyn with the song featuring a fine mid tempo jaunt interrupted by a shimmering choral break – a long stretch perhaps but this reminded us of the man back when he was in Buffalo Springfield. Memphis, Dan Penn (and Lloyd Cole) come to mind on the perfectly minted Hold On and, on a solo outing, Never In Her Eyes, Edwyn grounds the album, reminding one of what a fine guitar picker he is.
All in all, Highlights of the Low Nights trumps the band’s previous albums, fine as they are. Here, Edwyn and his borrowed band have delivered a wonderfully crafted and perfectly delivered set of songs.
Buy it here.