James D. Bryan has the blues in his latest record Tasty Blue – the choice of shirt on the album cover is perhaps a happy mistake or chosen for the occasion. But the album is not fixed on one-shaded tales of self-deprecation or the woebegone condition; Bryan’s complex narratives have 50 shades of blues.
Tasty Blue is a mix of folk and country built on whiskey, cigarettes, and regrets and pop made by the optimism of friends and the excitement of the stories gathered. Opener “Medicine Man” has the ideal dosage of cheek and sadness. The playful honky-tonk piano style and the sing-speak delivery of the suggestive question “have you ever had acupuncture all night?” at the track’s beginning is damn charming but underneath it we find a man trying to escape himself and thankful for his friends.
In the last two songs of the record, this early charming facade has given way to more honesty. “Solitary Stare” plods along in misery as Bryan reveals, “I’m addicted to you because you’re everything I’m not but the laws of attraction aren’t strong enough” while closer “Take On My Mind” echoes this sadness (“I’m longing without you”) and shows a man in a desperate search to find a companion who is willing to take on his mind.
In between these two sides lies the gentle “Skies Bruise” which holds the reasons as to why the man of Tasty Blue changes his tune. In “Skies Bruise,” we’re led to the top of a grassy hill, asked to lie down and made to watch the sky’s changing colours. It’s a moment of complete meditation where Bryan looks at the world around him and, most importantly, himself.
On Tasty Blue, James D. Bryan tells colourful stories that won’t fade anytime soon.
Top Tracks: “Medicine Man”; “Skies Bruise”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)