Updated: Aug 11, 2021
James Bennett has found his groove on his fourth album “Life and Life Only”.
James is an independent solo artist and talented multi-instrumentalist who grew up off the grid on an isolated farm just inland of Byron Bay.
Possessing an effortless charisma and musicianship, Bennett transcends to his song writing through expansive and textural layers that makes us feel like there is a glimmer of hope in these seemingly crazy times.
James is a self-taught guitarist, articulate lyricist with a voice of rough velvet and it's no surprise or coincidence that this boy grew up listening to the uninterrupted dreamy folk magic of Bob Dylan.
As a child, James would sneak his Dad’s guitar from the cupboard and imitate Dylan, singing along to every song. He made a harmonica brace out of an old wire coat hanger, so he could play the harmonica at the same time as the guitar. Fast forward a few years and he was writing songs with purpose and playing all over Australia, with three albums under his belt.
The Newcastle folk singer-songwriter commands an eager, inviting spirit on his fourth “Life and Life Only” with the title taken from Bob Dylan’s song “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) off 1965’s “Bringing It All Back Home”. The new album was recorded at Gareth Hudson’s Hazy Cosmic Jive Studio in Adamstown Heights with a little help from friend and fellow musician Nick Saxon.
“I had Saxon play on the tracks, break them apart and alter the arrangements," said James. "As this is my fourth album, I was keen to try a few different methods. The results have been really promising.”
The first two singles “Beg Lie Steal Borrow” and “Broken Wicker Chair” were both synonymous with Bennett’s classic folk-Americana sound, awash with fresh melodic textures. His vision for his music is strikingly assured.
“I feel like I’ve arrived at the sound I wanted all this time.”
“Broken Wicker Chair” was inspired by Bennett’s frequent trips to country towns where he’d often see rundown farmhouses and wonder about the history.
“The imagery was in my head, thinking about what it might have been like to live there, or have been around when it was thriving,” said James.
The third single “So Have My Smiles” came out at the same time as “Life and Life Only.
The guitar playing on the record is so obsessively perfect, it almost escapes comprehension, even on densely packed fingerpicking, he never misses a beat. James Bennett has dared to chase his curiosity past boundaries while channelling the enthusiasm of audacious, self-determined freedom.
Over the years he has supported a plethora of Australian artists including Diesel, Jeff Lang, The Whitlam’s, Wendy Matthews, Ian Moss, The Black Sorrows, Vika and Linda Bull, Mental as Anything and many more. He is a stalwart festival artist, having played at the Sydney Roots and Blues Festival, Airlie Beach Festival of Music, Grow Your Own, Wingham Acoustic and Festival of the Sun.
The future is bright for this young artist. A tender-hearted stoic from Newcastle whose songs land on the sweet spot. We suggest you turn up “Life and Life Only” and let the music carry you away to a better place.