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James HoulahanJames Houlahan
Album: Multitudes
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10

Name sound familiar? Well, from 2002 to 2007, James was the principal songwriter and guitar player in the Boston-based band, The Jody Grind (not to be confused with British prog-rock outfit of "The-less" but otherwise identical name). Since 2009, he's released three solo albums, the latest of which is Multitudes, best described as an album of dark, slightly weird Americana.

James's gravelly vocal delivery has been likened to Tom Waits and early Dr. John, and on tracks like opener Fires Of Mercy it's easy to hear why, but elsewhere his style is more muscular and a little more wayward, although still well characterised. In fact, on first hearing you might well feel that the sinister carnivalesque waltzery of Fires Of Mercy and its swampy gumbo successor Delta Heart are not easily surpassed, with the ensuing pair of tracks perhaps less musically distinctive, but things pick up again with the extended mex-mariachi-infused Mystery Earth Song and the album standout Morning Sun (which sports an eerie, lonesome-yet-comforting backing vocal from Esther Clark).

Marcy's Lament charges along with an ominous rattling and clanking percussion section, and Rock Star really rocks; then the album concludes with a pair of country-style love songs (Home and Joyful Circuit) that leave the listener in no doubt that James is something of a force to be reckoned with.

He creates a strong sound with this record, and he has access to some of LA's best session musicians, including Fernando Perdomo (bass), Danny Levin (horns), Kaitlin Wolfberg (violin, viola), Erik Kristiansen (pedal steel) and Danny Frankel (percussion), to bring the songs to life in bold technicolor.

David Kidman