As Michael so eloquently wrote back in October when reviewing James Hoffman’s song “To Hear You Again,” “Other Songs Music Co. has basically cornered the market on beautiful folk music.” Earlier this year the Hamilton-based label put out a gorgeous and very pastoral record from Benjamin and so like his label-mate and Michael’s description of Other Songs, James Hoffman’s sophomore album Fault Lines is a very naturalistic and beautiful one too.
Felt immediately thanks to opener “For What It’s Worth” is the warm breeze given off, and constantly felt, by the welcoming guitar, piano, banjo, harmonies, and the ease that Hoffman’s melodies carry with them. It’s this type of album that makes song writing look so easy. “For What It’s Worth” also introduces a partnership between the personal and pastoral as Hoffman sings, “them trees are growing and so am I” – a union that runs wild throughout Fault Lines.
The aforementioned pleasant instrumental and melodious combination from Hoffman radiates warmth and combats the wickedness of the world in “Stability” while each stomp in the playful “Only The Hills” (with great additional vocals from Nabi Bersche) fans the flames.
In “Naturally,” Hoffman sings of a relationship that happened spontaneous, without overthinking, an organic process that does well to characterize this organic style of Fault Lines. Flowing out of opener “For What It’s Worth,” is standout “Wish You Well.” Its steady rhythm feels neither rushed or slow but rather matches the peace and level-headedness that comes, as the song describes, with understanding when it’s time to part ways. “Now I Know,” another standout, is rooted by a softly picked guitar and finds Hoffman reflecting on all the emotions and responsibilities ties to a natural miracle – the birth of his child – making for a beautiful and heartfelt ode.
Fault Lines is unrefined and unburdened by the modern, cold world so naturally, you’re going to like this album.
Top Tracks: “Wish You Well” ; “Now I Know”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)