Hailing from Denton, Texas, James Robert Byrd is a singer songwriter who has been playing music since he was a little lad, beginning like many do, on the ivory keys of his family’s piano.
Growing up learning guitar and bass, Byrd recorded original tracks with his highschool band ‘Sneaky Petes’ when he was just 16. He then went on to major in Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas – clearly a boy with a desire for a life in music; he carried on to secure a Masters Degree in Jazz. After that, he began playing and recording his own multiple styles of music, his first album ‘Step into the Shade’, followed by ‘Limitless’ – quirky, experimental albums that showcase a young man having fun with music and enjoying no set number of musical styles. It is also note worthy to mention that, on his second album, he played every instrument himself.
After albums number three and four, which saw J.R tour around America, he found people who wanted to hear stripped back, relaxed music like it was being played live in their own living rooms. This inspired him to write his fifth album, ‘Down Home Son’, which consists of simple, just a man and his guitar style tracks. The album opens up with the interestingly titled ‘Why Won’t You Grow Your Hair Long’ – a fast paced, light hearted song that demonstrates J.R’s unioque voice, reminiscent of old style jazz and blues. The lyrics are comical and fun, as he declares he “wants some chocolate twirls”. This is an album to relax to and forget the seriousness of usual life. Track number two, ‘Planted’, has a more country feel with a classic country music message about love and growth.
Track three is a live song, with substantial quality, presumably recorded in a studio of sorts with a small audience, proving a lack of auto tune and absence of overkill production on Byrd’s album. The theme of nature follows from the last song into this one, and so leads into a similarly laid back acoustic tune about lazing around with a significant other, in a lightly mocking fashion documenting the small nigglings of relationships. Just let the man stay in bed will you lady? ‘Peace of Mind’ is another live track inspired by advice given to Byrd by his father, resulting in a sweet tune guaranteed to make any offspring nostalgic. Halfway through the album, the consistently smooth and well-played guitar sounds, paired with clever lyrics and unique tone of Byrd’s voice makes for a very relaxing and easy listen.
Track six continues the fun, upbeat fashion, but track seven, ‘Seahawks on Sundays’, is another live track, more meaningful and heartfelt. ‘The Coolest Person’ returns to the clever and well-delivered lyrics, with strong strumming to accompany.
Track 9 sees the album’s final live track, showcasing the power Byrd is capable of vocally, even under the pressure of a live audience. ‘Unlike You’ is another deeper track, showing the full capacity of Byrd’s lyricism . His ability to switch effortlessly between fun and more serious is a testament to his confidence and comfort found within music.
‘Wait for me’ closes the album with delicate guitar playing, more clever lyrics, and a lasting feeling of relaxation and insights into love. A song about longing in the most innocent way, Byrd is a songwriter with many sides, and he has the talent and dedication to pull off any style of song. He’s like Jack Johnson only cooler, John Mayer only less sad, and is well worth a listen to.
Top tracks: Planted, Peace of Mind, and Wait for Me.