James Talley - Bandits, Ballads and Blues
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Bandits, Ballads and Blues (Cimarron, 2024)

James Talley

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

Nashville has rarely had a more authentic artist than singer-songwriter, octogenarian James Talley, who enters his sixth recording decade with his 15th studio album, Talley, who under more fair circumstances, should be as equally revered as the one his vocals are most often compared to Willie Nelson. Yes, that's high praise for Talley who has never succumbed to big label commercialism that was so tempting earlier in his career with his four highly acclaimed albums for Capitol in the late '70s. Fortunately, after a considerable hiatus (last release 2009's "Heartsong") Talley, remaining true to his steadfast convictions, has returned.

Longtime collaborator Dave Pomeroy produced, plays bass and assembled some of Music City's finest to support Talley, including Doyle Grisham, Mike Nobel, Billy Contreras, Jeff Taylor, The McCrary Sisters and more in this largely acoustic, storytelling offering. The songs, like the title suggests, are a mixed bag, some of which are timeless tales, some seemingly dated to the '70s songs of peace and love such as "If We Could Love One Another" while "In These Times" is clearly aimed at today's current divisive socio-political climate.

Talley remains his outspoken self. His empathy is genuinely felt on gems "Christmas on the Rio Grande," about an immigrant child on our southern border, and perhaps even more vividly in his tribute to a friend that's a shoutout to all too often neglected Vietnam vets in "For Those Who Can't." His tributes to his father ("The Dreamer") to a young friend who died too young ("Somewhere in the Stars") and his wife ("You Always Look Good in Red") are equally as heartfelt and genuine. Hints of gospel via the McCrary Sisters imbue "Jesus Wasn't a Capitalist" and the aforementioned "In These Times."

Amidst this serious material, we hear gripping narratives and visual imagery of the southwest where Talley maintains a second home in his tales of the outlaws with the album bookended with tales of Billy the Kid ("The Lovesong of Billy The Kid" and "Fort Sumner Blues"). In between, we have "The Hanging of ''Black Jack" Ketchum." It's James Talley, with his stunning poetic lyrics, his gift for storytelling and his uncompromising honest delivery.

CDs by James Talley

Bandits, Ballads and Blues, 2024

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