Firstly, let’s remove one potentially confusing element of this debut EP. The clue’s in the double slash, it’s not Beth James the solo artist but Austin-based folk duo Mikaela Beth Kahn and Jordan James Burchill that we are concerned with here. I mention this only because you wouldn’t have been alone if you hadn’t yet seen the cover and been the victim of a double take on hearing Jordan’s unmistakably masculine, albeit tenor voice kicking off first track and single Lion Eyes.
On closer investigation there is more to this than meets the eye. Apparently taking a middle name from both artists represents to them two parts of the whole and the distribution of equal if different sections of the creative workload. All In Life leans towards the commercial side of Americana, with producer Brian Douglas Phillips (David Ramirez, Rob Baird) striking a balance between Nashville chart aspiration and Austin hometown inspiration, with the resulting Lion Eyes chorus-driven and organ-heavy, set against sleazy slide guitar in a saloon setting, telling a sorry tale of a friend falling prey to questionable female intent. I Miss The Music In Austin is country-tinged folk with lap-steel, fiddle and banjo to boot, telling of, well, missing the music in Austin when not around. The voices blend together like green tea, Douglas Phillips, supremely delicate, achieving a perfect infusion and the process continues apace, smooth and harmonious to a (cough) tee.
Ultimately though, there’s a little too much middle of the road flotsam to be found within the material, which can be a dangerous place to drive when you’re trying to make a name for yourself, although there are signs that Beth//James have the potential of mixing it with the best of them. It’s too early for wild proclamations or idle predictions but there’s some fine musicianship and two individuals perfectly in accord with one another to be found within the ranks of Beth//James. Watch this space.
Elegant debut from country/folk pairing. Best is yet to come.