When I had the chance to interview Branden James in 2014 for The Colab Network, I listened to a few of his songs and went armed with a few questions. I liked his style but didn’t know all that much about him. I left as a fan for life. That’s the impression he as a person and a musician had on me. It didn’t matter that he was one of the Twelve Tenors or had been a finalist on America’s Got Talent. All that was testament to his talent (and in my opinion he should have won America’s Got Talent) but even if he’d been singing on the street and I’d heard him there, I’d have known he was one of the best.
So I was thrilled when the opportunity came along to review his EP! It’s an absolute honour to be asked to write about someone as talented as this.
Branden says “I really thought about the word crossover and what that means to me. I wanted to take the musical styles I’ve been influenced by and fuse them together without neglecting the fact that I’m a classically trained singer. What came out of my pen were elements of pop, folk, Americana and even a hint of country.”
With that in mind, I think Branden achieved that and more with this collection of beautiful, sensitively written and sung tracks. The EP as a whole is a lovely mix of contemporary and classical songs written or co-written by Branden James (except “The Night” which was written by Katy Stephan and “Why You Had to Change My World” which was written by, and a big hit of, Branden’s grandfather – country star Jimmy Smith.)
“You Belong” is a very comforting song especially to those who sometimes wonder where their place in the world is – and indeed, what they are doing here. Loneliness is a sad place to be and the song makes the listener feel that he or she is not misplaced in the world.
“The Night” has a folksy, upbeat feel to it and is a nice fit after the slower “You Belong”
“Where Are You Now” is a no brainer for me. We’ve had a couple of losses in our family this year. Very recently we had to put our beloved dog down which has been completely shattering. I found myself listening to this and smiling and thinking of her. Anybody who has experienced any form of loss or is missing anybody in any way will find this very relatable, soothing and healing.
“Another Chance” describes a situation to which we can all relate, probably particularly in our teenage and young adult years – how many chances do we give someone or something? The song sums up that range of emotion in a moving, meaningful way which will stick with people.
“It’s Beautiful Tonight” contains some artistic imagery that takes the mind to another place. I loved the line “I’m staring at a frozen sky” which really made me think ‘yes. It IS beautiful tonight.’
“Why You Had to Change My World” is a beautiful cover of the Jimmy Smith original with a traditional moving country feel. This is a lovely tribute to a grandfather who had a large impact on Branden’s life and clearly passed on talent!!
As with every song of Branden’s, it’s far better for you to listen to the music and experience it for yourself than to rely on the written word. The EP is already available for preorder on iTunes (I just put my order in!). Sales will begin August 18th.
There is something for everyone in this peaceful, moving EP by a highly talented musician.
Reviews are supposed to have some sort of criticism included to make them balanced, but the only thing I could find wrong is that the EP doesn’t go on longer. I am ‘just a fan’ without any musical knowledge but I do know that Branden James as a musician is a cut above the rest. So I enlisted the help of a professional musician, Jean Collen, to do this piece justice.
Here is what she has to say.
Branden James has a beautiful voice with clear diction and he sings each of the six songs in Crossover with sincere emotion. It is obvious that his classical vocal training has stood him in good stead performing songs in widely differing styles with equal flair. Not only does he perform the songs but he has co-written most of them. The last song in the collection, Why You Had to Change My World was written by his grandfather, Country and Western singer, Jimmy Smith is performed with a very apt accompaniment. For me, the revival of Branden’s grandfather’s hit song was the cherry on the top of a wonderful collection.
The accompaniments are innovative. Branden has gathered a group of fine musicians and backing singers to support him in this unique collection. I particularly liked the use of the ‘cello in various songs. The guitar accompaniment in Another Chance is particularly pleasing. Branden is a gifted and musical performer and I feel sure that Crossover will have wide appeal.
Jean Collen is a musician and retired teacher of classical singing and piano. She has written several books about her friends and singing teachers, the great British duettists, Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler, and a series of novels and short stories – all with a musical theme. The latter books are written under the pen name of Fiona Compton.
Branden James’ EP Crossover will be available for pre-order starting August 6th on iTunes. Sales will begin August 18th. It will also be available at the following outlets: YouTube Music Key, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, Rdio, Deezer, Xbox Music, Rhapsody, eMusic, Simfy Africa, iHeartRadio, MixRadio, MediaNet, VerveLife, Tidal, Gracenote, Shazam, 7Digital, Juke, JB Hi-Fi, Slacker, Guvera, KKBox, Akazoo, Anghami, Spinlet, Neurotic Media, Yandex, Target Music, ClaroMusica, Play.me, Zvooq, Saavn, 8tracks, NMusic, Amazon On Demand