You might not have heard of Aaron James before, but if you’ve spent any time immersing yourself in the Memphis music scene, you’ve likely seen or heard his work. Aaron James has trail-blazed his way into nearly every musical project that’s been coming through the pipes at the University of Memphis for the past 3 years since moving here from Elizabethtown, PA to study recording technology. From backing various musical acts on his guitar (Sleepwlkrs, Sound Fuzion) to tracking guitar in the studio for artists like Mary Owens and Lauren Moscato, this guitar-slinger has quickly culminated an impressive amount of credentials and is finally breaking into to the solo side of the industry with his debut EP Here Comes the Rain.
It’s no surprise that a versatile musician like Aaron James would be capable of quality songwriting. Drawing folk and indie inspirations from artists like The Fleet Foxes and Ben Howard, Here Comes the Rain shows Aaron James’ true colors and passion for indie music, a genre that – until now – I haven’t heard him do.
The opening track, “Go Tell Maria” joyously displays James’ affinity for indie folk rock with a bridge I can only compare to something off of Iron & Wine’s Kiss Each Other Clean album due to its funky bass line, mid-tempo beats, and colorful woodblock percussion. I wouldn’t say the lyrics dull in comparison to the musical composition of this track, however it can be assumed that James’ style of writing falls more within the abstract and will require some analysis in order to relate.
Musically, “No One Knows” stood out to me among the other tracks due to its soaring guitar bends, soft freight-train rhythm, and sweeping guitar picking which relate it more to a country midwestern than indie folk. Proceeding it is the single “The Space Between” which begins relatively simple in composition but grows as the track progresses (as shown in the music video below). Arpeggiated acoustic guitar with the addition of bell-like keyboard effects and built-out vocal harmonies that simulate echoes is the musical combination that makes this track shine above the others. However, the title track “Here Comes the Rain,” might be an equal contender for the best song on the EP. Ending on a more introspective note, James’ paints a narrative of heartbreak and forlorn with the occasional tone of optimism in lyrics like
“Oh what a year it has been by your side
The warm turned to cold and the roses and thorns all died
But deep in the field where the sunflowers still grow
Where happiness looms in the breeze, that’s where I’ll go”
If you couldn’t tell by that verse, this is a song that’s half hopeful, half you-will-get-snot-and-tears-all-over-your-steering-wheel and sounds like something from a Mazzy Star record, so load up on tissues and ice cream before this one, folks.
It’s not always easy for someone who has spent a large part of their life playing in the shadows of others, but Here Comes the Rain proves that Aaron James is worthy of standing on his own as an independent artist. As a breakout debut EP, its a testament to his talent as not only a songwriter but also as a soloist. To learn more about Aaron James, visit his website and definitely check out his video for “The Space Between” below.