When it came time to make the new record, James felt he needed to veer outside his comfort zone artistically, and looked for a producer who could help facilitate this. His search, along with longtime friend and bandmate Evan Coulombe, coincidentally led him to the Willamette Valley of Oregon, home base of producer Richard Swift (Damien Jurado, Gardens and Villa, The Mynabrids). Holed up in Swift’s creative alcove National Freedom, the three of them took James’s voice and songs in unexpected directions, interested much more in honesty than sheer flawlessness. Recorded predominantly live over the course of two weeks, Swift strived to capture the immediacy of James’ live performances, without laboring over multiple takes or lengthy overdubs. After giving one or two impassioned live performances of each new song, James stepped back to make way for Swift’s own artistic vision.
As a result, James found his own voice while escaping the traditional confines of the folk genre. The elements of the confessional remain, but the music here breathes and moves with a life all its own. Songs like “Wolves” begin sparse and pretty before suddenly moving into the epically symphonic. “Ghost In The Town” is a poignant goodbye to youth in the form of a guitar strum noir. “Surrender” is existential angst hidden between piano waltz and doo-wop sway. The album’s lead off single, “Queen of the City”, came out of a late night, whisky-induced haze, depicting the internal paradox of good and evil, the id and the ego, faith and doubt.
“The writing and recording of this record has been a time of transition and realization for me,” says James, “and that set me free to explore other sounds and forms of expression. It’s been about finding a center and realizing that not everyone needs to see the world like you do. We all have differences. I love the fact that we are not all the same, nor should we be.”
Where Build Me This addressed the concept of rebirth, From The Top Of Willamette Mountain accomplishes a rebirth artistically. Whatever he found up there at the top of his imaginary mountain or in the Oregon studio, James now seems to be directing his questioning inward, rather than towards a hole in the sky, and the conversation is getting much more interesting.
released November 6, 2012
Made by Joshua James, Evan Coulombe & Richard Swift at National Freedom.
Produced by Richard Swift / Mixed by Richard Swift
Except tracks 2, 5 & 7 mixed by Bill Moriarty
Mastered by TW Walsh
Painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner "The Junkerboden Under Snow" 1936-1938
Album design by Cole Nielsen
All songs written by Joshua James except "Holly, Halej" written by Joshua James and Kyle Henderson