1979 certainly wasn’t the time for this album to come out. Jemima James faced the unenviable timing of debuting during a period when the value of singer/songwriters and folk-influenced performers couldn’t have been at a lower commercial ebb. Her talents, as exhibited on the ten song release At Longview Farm, are the equal of many of her much more famous peers of the era and At Longview Farm is a complete listening experience that touches on many American musical influences without ever ceding dominance to one particular style. She is surrounded by a top shelf supporting cast of musicians who know just what to add to her songs and when to temper their talents. James has a fantastic voice for the material and it’s full of nuance that helps her realize the dramatic potential of the arrangements and lyrical content alike. The album is immaculately produced – the often layered performances never sound cluttered and are juxtaposed perfectly against James’ vocal.
The song “Sensible Shoes” is an unique and understated fusion of a few musical styles. Jemima James the folk performer is visible and audible throughout, but there’s also a sharp commercial edge on this song with its chorus and other attributes that will reappear from time to time throughout the course of the album. The vocals are quite exceptional throughout and the elegant simplicity of the musical accompaniment is a perfect match for them. “Easy Come, Easy Go” continues with the commercial standard established by the opener, but it is a much more natural sounding track. It plays more like the result of a loose, good natured jam rather than a structured arrangement and it’s a testament to the skill level of the players involved that they can achieve that sort of atmosphere while keeping the performance disciplined and inspired. “Esperate” brings a slightly more exotic feel than the other songs, but it isn’t some overwrought stab into an uncomfortable style. James’ versatility is impressive and she glides vocally through the track with free-flowing, relaxed strength.
“Book Me Back in Your Dreams” is one of the most interesting pieces of songwriting on the album and, surprisingly, one of the most traditionally minded efforts as well. The inclusion of instruments like steel guitar and harmonica isn’t unique, but they do give this song its own distinctive musical voice. “One More Rodeo” will reminds most listeners of songs like the opener and “Easy Come, Easy Go”, but it’s the best of the album’s more commercial tracks thanks to its compression and perfect unity of vocals, lyrics, and musical content. The second to last song on the album, “Billy Baloo”, features two lead vocals, but it’s by far the most rousing singing that she does on this album.
Jemima James’ album At Longview Farm has found an ideal time and avenue for its emergence. Team Love Records has demonstrated a commitment to promoting and releasing some of the most interesting music coming out today and shining a light on some forgotten corners and performers of our time. This ten song collection stands proudly among the label’s other releases and will likely stand the test of time.
9 out of 10 stars.