“We have stories in our family that are straight out of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’”
Singer-songwriter Alias James’ family roots go back four generations to the heat and dust of Bakersfield, California, where his great grandfather was a pioneer cotton and grape farmer.
“He was known as a hard-working, generous soul, played some guitar, loved songs, horses, and people. I heard so many stories about him, knew the names of some of his dogs. My grandmother drove a plow in 120 degrees. Like most families, there’s some tragedy in our history – I came up elsewhere, but I visit there and feel a strong connection, and have been influenced by music that comes from there: Merle, Buck, Dwight…”
““Free Country”, the debut release from singer-songwriter Alias James, is a wide-ranging album of lyric-driven songs that touch on Americana, Alt-Country, Singer-Songwriter, old-school Country, and Alternative Rock. Featuring pedal steel, a variety of guitar textures, fiddle, and vocal harmonies, the sounds and grooves range from classic to contemporary, with no two songs sounding the same.
“The song “Free Country” came about because someone asked me – what do you call this music? I grew up hearing that expression all the time; it could mean different things, but mainly that you can do or think what you want, for better or worse. And one thing led to another – the lonely rodeo guy, the girl who needs some freedom to decide what she wants to do, the person who gets pulled over because of the way they look. It’s an open-ended state of mind. And it begs a few questions.”
““Catch Myself” is about how easy it is to drift off into memories or dreams, and that jolt that happens when reality intrudes. “Where You Used to Be” is my favorite song on the album; it makes me think of Bakersfield and Merle Haggard.”
AJ plays all the guitars and sings lead and harmonies on the album, which is immediately noteworthy for its abundance of pedal steel in both classic (“Hell (If I Don’t Cry)”, “Where You Used to Be”) and more modern, ambient (“Temptation”, “Catch Myself”) settings. Also featured are two cameos by CMA award-winning fiddle player Jenee Fleenor, which add to the collection’s acoustic dimension. AJ lives and records in an old barn “way out in the country”, using old instruments and amps, running everything through tube-driven mic preamps salvaged from old Ampex tape recorders. The diverse sounds and stylings of these songs combine to give the album a unifying factor: an artist’s love of the many shades and variations in the broad palette of Country and Americana music.
“Alias James is a renegade whose take on Americana brings him into that special sphere where Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson chose to reside while creating what came to be called outlaw country music.” – Lee Zimmerman, GOLDMINE MAGAZINE
“Free Country is traditional country for tomorrow, and as close to the real thing as modern times will allow. Well done.” – MIDWEST RECORD
“The best news is how powerful songs like “Another Last Chance,” “Catch Myself,” Kickin’ Up a Shitstorm” and “Where You Used to Be” are.” – Bill Bentley, AMERICANA HIGHWAYS