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Blackwater James

by Dawn Marie Fichera

A little while back we told you about Blackwater James, a Nashville based, kick a@$ hardcore gritty rock and roll band that impressed the hell out of us. Well, they're back with a second album that not only matches the pure energy and delightfully raw
sexiness that is rock and roll from their self-titled first album, but surpasses it entirely.

Blackwater James met with international critical acclaim with their self-titled debut album, a collection of recordings that encapsulated and bottled-up the rock and roll vibe they emulate on stage. With the release of their second album, Blackwater James, Vol. 1, they've vaulted their sound to the next level, with a crisp, clear direction of where their headed: sold out stadiums.

Their single, "Blackheart" has a fat bass beginning with a catchy radio friendly chorus that sinks into your skin. It has a bit of Audioslave, Velvet Relvolver feel to it with some Annie Lenox-like vocal harmonies. I would pay good money to say Slash was an influencer. But these guys kick it far more than Axel. "Burn This City Down" has an edgier more frantic sound, touched with a bit of Billy Gibbons guitar playing. "Burn" also has that Audioslave compliment. "Come On" positively drips sex, and "Set It Off" has the quintessential bar-brawl feel to it. One of my favorite tracks, "Feel Your Way," a cutting melodic bitty with a nod to STP, (okay, so it sort of reminds me of "Wicked Garden") floats over my subconsciousness to the point where I am muttering the chorus under my breath. Needless to say, the six-song power punch of this second album will make any fan happy.

Blackwater James isn't your little sister's rock band. They take a pinch of soul from the blues, steal a bit of raunchiness from rock, toss down it with a dollop of hardcore metal and twist the concoction into something that is their very own sound. Unlike some bands that claim to be rock and roll but saturate their songs in depressing lyricism and bland overlays, Blackwater James is refreshingly original, high-energy, and fun to both watch and listen to. You'll find the same addicting rhythm and powerfully frantic change-ups playing around well-thought out melodies and vocals that will make your teeth chatter. It ain't brain science. It's punchy, balls-out, unadulterated rock and roll. And these guys have it.

We caught up with Chris James of Blackwater James to talk a little about the band's newest release. Be sure to check them out on Pandora, because, yes, they can be found there. And keep an ear out for them on your local indie rock radio station. They'll be hitting the circuit hard.

antiMusic: Talk abut the different choices you made on this album; what was the most interesting unexpected sound you reached?

Chris James: The biggest choice we made recording VOL. 1 was keeping it simple. Keeping it simple has become kind of our battle cry or mantra. Here we are, this what we're about, and this is how we do it!!! We don't record anything we can't pull off live, so you won't hear 8000 guitar tracks, string sections, french horns, or choirs! We're a straight ahead rock band that enjoys having a good time.

antiMusic: How have you matured as musicians from your first album to this second one?

Chris James: Of course! If you're not always maturing and learning as a musician you're doing something wrong. We've become a tighter unit and can read where each other is going musically, and that makes the writing and recording process a whole lot easier. We're smarter, more controlled, and more comfortable with each of our places in the band.

antiMusic: What risks did you take with this album that you felt like you couldn't with your debut?

Chris James: Well first off, we had a set length of time we had in the studio that was somehow always looming. At the same time it was kind of nice to not have free reign and have limits set. That meant decisions had to be made and we didn't have the luxury of over-attacking something. So setting a time-limit in the studio was definitely a risk for us, as our first album was done completely in house. We took a lot of time, over analyzed every note, and kept adding overdubs just to take them away. Aside from that the only other risk we took was shooting for a commercial record. You always take that risk of loosing your fire or aggressiveness when you shot for a record like that, but I don't think we did on VOL 1.

antiMusic: Were you more confident recording this work than the previous?

Chris James: In more ways than one, yes. As a band, as individuals, song writers, and mainly as performers. We were only a band for about 4 months when we recorded our 1st record and we were still feeling each other out and testing everybody's mental and emotional limits. Going into the studio for VOL 1. we knew exactly what we wanted to accomplish and more importantly we had really nailed down our sound. We actually spent time on pre-production, demo'd our songs, and put in some heavy hours on the craft, mainly because we had to!! We had 5 days to record and mix VOL. 1, and if we didn't know our s*** on the way in it would have been a disaster.

antiMusic: What was the hardest part to recording this album?

Chris James: I don't mean to sound cocky, but VOL. 1 wasn't actually hard to record... at least in comparison to our debut. We put in so much leg work tracking, editing, mixing, re-tracking, writing, etc... on the first record I think we may have lost a bit of the performance in the process. But, if you want to get a little deep, the hardest part of recording this record was vocals. All of us sing on the record, and we really pushed the envelope and stretched ourselves for some really cool harmonies. Our engineer, Chris Utley at Benchmark Sound, did a great job pushing me for those high notes, some of which I wasn't sure I had to begin with.

antiMusic: Talk about the track set-up; are the meant to be listened to independently or as part of a whole story?

Chris James: Nope, not at all. VOL. 1 is meant to be a non-pretension collection of feel good rock songs. We're not trying to change the world, talk about our bad childhood's, we just like making people feel good and smile, and that's good enough for us.

antiMusic: Talk about your favorite track, why is it your favorite and what's the story behind it?

Chris James: We all have personal favs and all for very different reasons. I would have to say my favorite track off of VOL. 1 is probably 'Closer To Free'. It's a fairly common feeling I think, but it's based around letting someone you love go so they can do their own thing, grow, and experience life...and then come back to you. But of course in the end, you get the better, more mature, version of that person. Plus it's got a kick-ass, harmonizing, dual guitar solo...and who doesn't love those???

antiMusic: If I said you remind me of Audioslave would you cringe?

Chris James: Absolutely not!!!! What a kick ass band, and Im flattered that you would compare us to them. We are huge Audioslave fans, and even cover 'Cochise' from time to time. We are a load rock band based on guitar riffs. Josh and I are also huge Rage Against The Machine fans, that's actually I think how we bonded, but that groove that makes you bob your head is important to us...and we pull that from bands like Rage and Audioslave. Also, Chris Cornell has the voice of a god!!!

antiMusic: If you could pull one track off the album what would it be and why?

Chris James: I don't think I could pull any of the tracks and feel ok about it. We wrote a lot more songs and specifically choose the six we did because they work well together. There's a little something for everybody on VOL. 1 Some people say 'Set It Off' sticks out quite a but not necessarily in a bad way. It's got more of a Foo Fighters vibe than the straight-ahead blues infused rock we're prone to.

antiMusic: Is this album getting more, less, or equal l response as your first?

Chris James: It's getting a lot more positive response, probably due to it being sonically superior to the 1st album. Radio has been easier to come by because the production value is radio quality and it's easier to listen to. VOL. 1 captured us very accurately and I think it shows.

antiMusic: What's the biggest difference between the two albums?

Chris James: The biggest difference between the 1st record and VOL. 1 is definitely the 'live' factor. I'm not sure how many people know this but VOL. 1 was recorded live. We were all in the same room together and the majority of those tracks were recorded all the way through. This is our bread and butter!!!! All of us in the same room, laughing, having a good time, going ape-s*** cause we feel it, and the energy was harnessed and pulled through. The only thing we really over-dubbed were guitar solo's and vocals. This time around we had some great equipment sponsors in the studio as well. Deanna and I are endorsed by Kramer Guitars, and they blessed us with their new Assault models, which is what you hear on every guitar track! D'Addario kept us strung up and it-tune, and Evans Drum heads are what you hear on Todd's end. We also got these awesome custom picks from Clayton USA for the occasion which were fun to keep around.

antiMusic: What were you going for and did you reach it?

Chris James: We went in the studio wanting to make a rock n roll EP, and I think we accomplished that. It's a no frills record with a guitar on the left, a guitar on the right, and songs about having a good time. Rock music has become so overly-serious, introspective, and just damn depressing and we're sick of it. We want to smile on stage, have fun on our records, and make our fans happy and feel good.

antiMusic: Pick one track and tell me why I have to listen to it.

Chris James: BLACKHEART... definitely BLACKHEART!!! It's our single, got a funky bass line, a balls-out bridge, and a really singable chorus. It's a song that encapsulates what we do as a band...straight ahead, sexy, rock music!

antiMusic: What's next?

Chris James: We're planning some hard-core touring for the late summer hitting the south and north east. Also, keep an ear out for our tunes in movies & tv. With our single 'BLACKHEART' hitting your local rock radio station very soon, you should be hearing a lot more from Blackwater James.

Check out more from these guys. They will be a household name. I guarantee it.

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