Songwriting master craftsman’s delivers 24th, and career defining album.
Seattle based singer songwriter Jim Page has been recording albums now for close on fifty years, and in that time has had songs covered by such as The Doobie Brothers, Dick Gaughan and Christy Moore, and shared the stage with Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, and Leftover Salmon. Seen by some as a modern day successor to Woody Guthrie and Earl Robinson, his early albums were typical of the folk singing movement of the early seventies, influenced by Dylan, but had a sound and feel that lay closer to the likes of John Prine and Steve Goodman.
Three years on from his last album, 2019’s, ‘Pretty Simple’, Page is back with what could well be his best album yet, certainly his most ambitious. Recorded at Studio Litho and engineered by Floyd Reitsma, previous works include, Chris Cornell, Pearl Jam, and Dave Matthews, who manages to give each track a broad musical soundscape, wonderfully supported by some of Seattle’s finest musicians.
The album opens with, ‘Ain’t That Something’, where Page sings about the hard earned legacy’s of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Billie Holiday and how that can’t be measured or compared against todays celebrity world of the, famous for being famous. Page’s vocals are warm and relaxed with the wisdom of his years and a way with words that enable him to take that which, in lesser hands would be no more than a throw away line, and chisel and sculpt so that every syllable has worth and purpose. All this is supported by a wonderful rhythm section of Joel Litwin on drums and Dune Butler on bass helping to gently drive the track along, while Orville Johnson delivers some sublime jazz lines from his guitar and J.R. Rhodes adds the most delicious backing vocals.
Through out the years Page has never been frightened to challenge what he perceives to be political injustices with his songs, but to define him purely as a, ‘political folk singer’, would be grossly wide of the mark, as his palette and his brush strokes are too varied and articulate. He is much more a social commentator, who writes and sings about the world around him and the stories that he uncovers. Track two from the album, ‘Angeline’, recalls one of those stories about Chief Seattle’s daughter, Kikisoblu, who refused to leave her home when all her kinfolk were told to get out of the way of progress. Later on the album, Page revisits an old song, ‘Amadou Diallo’, a song of a young West African man who was shot no less than nineteen times by the police while reaching for his wallet. The new melody and bridge helps to replaces some of the original anger with a celebration of life, enhanced by some gorgeous saxophone playing by Jessica Lurie.
The impending climate crisis and the impact it is likely to have on the next generation is the subject matter in, ‘Down To Zero’, a song recently covered by Christy Moore, but retitled as, ‘Clock Winds Down’. Moore is of course no stranger to Page’s music, having first recorded his work whilst still with Moving Hearts and was once quoted as saying, “Jim Page carries the light”. This is followed by the heart wrenchingly beautiful, ‘Only Heat I Have’, where Page’s gentle narrative recounts a story that has its origins in the small Irish town of Bray. With a simple chord progression strummed on the guitar and Rhodes perfect vocal accompaniment, this is story telling through song of the highest order, using only the barest amount of lyrical and musical content to get to the very essence of the track, almost guaranteed to leave the listener with a lump in their throat and a tear in their eye.
Track seven ‘Amazon’, finds Page challenging Jeff Bezoz over the right to that name while the region, the forest and its people struggle for their very existence, and grotesque wealth and success have become weapons of war. Once again Lurie supplies a wonderful saxophone accompaniment. Page continues his social observations with ‘Pulling The Statues Down’, with reference to the action taken by demonstrators not only in his homeland, but also here in Bristol, and suggesting, “if the old statues come down why not put new ones up”.
Page returns to the plight of the planet on the title track, where he sings, “you got eyes to see, you got ears to hear, and you know very well what’s been happening hear”. However this is no chest thumping, anthemic clarion call, this is much more subtle and much more persuasive, where the whisper is louder than the scream, and the chorus repeats, “now is the time, the time is now”, with Rhodes exquisite voice joining Page, creating a mellow soulfulness, not dissimilar to Norah Jones.
Page has not reinvented the wheel here, not at seventy three. However, what he has done is hone all his experience and skills garnered over the last fifty years to create his very own masterpiece. An album that captures the true art and craft of the singer songwriter in all its glory. If Jim Page is a name you’ve yet to discover then surely, ‘The Time Is Now’.