The soulful harmonies of music industry newcomers Beth // James, an alternative indie folk duo from Austin, joins SCENES Live Sessions Friday, July 14 at 12 PM EST.
Beth // James is made up of Jordan James Burchill and Mikaela Beth Kahn. They began writing together about a year ago, after meeting in 2008 while studying jazz at the University of North Texas. The collaboration of this band begins with its name, derived by taking a “piece of each middle name to create one entity.” But when you hear them sing together, reading the lyrics as you go, you will see this collaboration goes further and has hit pure gold. There is an obvious chemistry with these two and it comes out in force when they sing together.
Their first EP, All In Life, is a sweet blend of acoustic melodies and breathtaking harmonies. It sounds like the musicians have been singing together for years. And while their lyrics sound poetic, be sure it’s pure music with sophisticated strings and an iridescent organ behind them.
Tourworthy said of the band, “Their sweet acoustic melodies make you think of open fields and swinging hammocks.”
While this is a fair description, and you could certainly enjoy their music while swinging from a hammock, I want to give their music and lyrics a little more credit. Its sophisticated simplicity and spot-on musicianship give these two the mark of veteran entertainers. But if I’m going to be whimsical, and some of their songs certainly are light-hearted, a swinging hammock or even a walk in a waste-high wheat field that tickles the palm of your hands comes to mind.
My favorite track from their debut EP is “Lion Eyes,” not to be mistaken for “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles. It has one of those haunting melodies, especially at the beginning of the song. It not only makes you listen to it again and again, but it sticks in your head and you find yourself humming it hours later. It’s already on my personal playlist.
The theme of the song, however, is similar to the Eagles’ Grammy-award winning classic rock ballad. It’s dark, but it’s fresh and not at all a copy of the 1975 “Lyin Eyes” written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. But a woman on the prowl for a heart to break is always a good theme for a song.
The lyrics begin:
She watches from a table at the bar
She’s young and wild and able preying from afar
Her mane is burnt and auburn like the newest breed
Her skin is soft and golden made of greed
She looks right through your heart
That smile sharp in the dark
She wants you to surrender
That pretty appetite
Is fiending through the night
She wants you to surrender
Lion eyes, her lion eyes
She wants you she needs you
She’s got to feed those
You may find yourself swaying back and forth as Burchill and Kahn sing individually, swaying back and forth between stanzas to artfully and powerfully come together with an incredible blending of their voices. His voice is almost in your face, less gentle while her voice sounds like it’s floating. It’s as if he is singing about this “Lion Eyes” and she is the woman seducing you in the song. It’s perfect.
Listen for yourself.
These two voices sound like they were born to sing together. Like Peter, Paul and Mary. Or better yet, Glenn Campbell and Bobbie Gentry in “Let It Be Me,” released in 1969.
Beth // James have an old-school flavor enriched with modern folk. Seriously. I truly like this band enormously and their new EP, released in April, establishes them as an exciting new voice duo. We can expect to see some exciting things from Beth // James, starting Friday, at noon, on SCENES Live Sessions. Hope you’ll join us then.