The Morning Singer: new single from Russell James

Sunrise over a small town

What I think I’ll end up doing for this record is tracking much more than I want to end up on the record, then I’ll just literally start pulling things out until it feels simple enough to match my vision for the record. I did that with one track on ‘Pay Attention,’ the final one I recorded, and it came out amazing. I should have done that with each song on that record. I’m going to take my time with this record. I don’t expect it to be finished until sometime next year.

Russell James, in the studio
Russell James on Mount Erie in Anacortes, Washington
Russell James on Mount Erie, Anacortes, Washington (2019)

I have been extraordinarily fortunate in my friendship with the Corvallis, Oregon-based recording artist Russell James. Not only do I get to hear demo versions of some of his songs on the records he’s developing, he also regularly shares his thoughts with me about his process, both the lighter moments, and the darkness. Readers who follow The Palace will have seen my review (defense?) of his latest record, “Pay Attention” (self released, 2019).

Now, even as we’re all locked down for two weeks in Washington and Oregon due to the invasion of the coronavirus, James is back in his studio heading in a new, leaner direction for his next full-length release. This week he’s dropped a single, “The Morning Singer” backed with “The Poet.” The direction he’s taking now is more rootsy, stripped down, simplified arrangements, with an emphasis on his guitar, his voice, and his message. The effect is more along the lines of Johnny Cash’s American Recordings. Personally, I think Russell James is having fun in his studio again.

The Morning Singer album art

I don’t want any more than 4 instrument tracks per song, even on the tracks with drums. Three tracks for songs without drums. That’ll make it very interesting. Because then it’s like, there’s a guitar track, a bass track, then I get one more, and only one. Actually, this perimeter feels very exciting. The choice of accent instrument will be critical because there will only be one. Piano? Electric guitar? A violin? A mandolin? Mellotron? Those are pretty much the only choices I’m giving myself.

Russell James

photo credits
(where not otherwise credited)

“Morning light” / photograph by joesayhello on Shutterstock