James Lee Baker releases Home Again
Home Again, the debut album from critically acclaimed singer/songwriter James Lee Baker, doesn’t waste any time grabbing our attention with both hands and administering us a dose of classic country melody in the opening track “The Canadian River.” Much like a churning stream cutting its way through a mountain range, the song carves out a harmony from a rigid, black and white collection of chords playing out in the background. The contrast creates a warmness that carries over into the fiddle-led “Two Cageless Birds,” the first of many haunting ballads that Home Again offers its listeners. “Disappear for the Weekend” introduces a spark of fiery catharsis into the album and jars us away from the somber trajectory of the preceding track. Slowly winding us into its web of reverent lyricism, “Disappear” might be Baker’s catchiest song to date.
In the lone star retrospective “If I Stay Here With You,” we’re treated to another dimension of Baker’s plaintive, observational prose, and it’s more sensuous than one might anticipate. It’s not the rocking free spirit that “The First Time” is, but to honest not very many songs are (especially in modern country music). The 70s style western “A Place For You & Me” evokes the dirge of classic crooners before clearing the way for the rollicking “More This Way” and the harmonica-tinged swinging of “Cowtown Blues.” By this point, if you’re able to resist the urge to get up and dance to the pulsating beat of Home Again, you might not be pleased with what tomorrow’s country music is going to sound like (as Baker is clearly one of its chief architects).
The hauntingly cerebral “That Look in Your Eyes” boasts one of the more muted batches of lyrics to be found in Home Again, but I actually found this song to be the most encapsulating of James Lee Baker’s identity as a songwriter. In just under five minutes, “That Look in Your Eyes” sharply reaches through our stereo speakers and touches our hearts with its startlingly eloquent commentary on human relationships. The first time that I listened to this track I found myself wondering why it took so long for Baker to come to the attention of the music press. He’s got such a heavenly voice and talent for writing deeply inspiring and intimately connective songs that to call him anything other than brilliant would be criminal.
The modest piano ballad “Stand Alone” wraps up Home Again with a heartfelt message of self-empowerment and introspection that needs to be heard in this age of seemingly universal depression and constant strife depicted in our world news. I was taken aback by how forcefully positive and uniquely raw Home Again was when I first came into contact with it, but in the months since its initial release I’ve come to realize that James Lee Baker’s entire persona revolves around a good attitude and unfiltered musicality – two things that leave a void in pop culture when they aren’t around. I highly recommend that anyone in need of a lift in spirits check out his new record at the soonest possible occasion; if it has the same effect on you as it did on me, it could be the biggest difference maker in your day.