[News or Reviews] James Irwin Gets Back to His Cosmic Country Roots on ‘Stars Blue Wheel’



James Irwin Gets Back to His Cosmic Country Roots on -Stars Blue Wheel-
James Irwin-s fourth album, Stars Blue Wheel, is haunting and sombre, but fights tooth and nail to find the light.

The multi-talented Toronto-via-Montreal artist, who-s been known to travel down the lo-fi electro road, pares his sound down for the self-recorded Stars Blue Wheel, going back to his folksy roots with nine pedal-steel-soaked ballads. The cosmic country tracks were written in response to the death of a dear friend of Irwin-s, along with the passings of Jason Molina, Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty and David Bowie.

Each track is unique and self-contained, but is stringed along the same blue feeling. Irwin isn-t just a great lyricist but also a skilled storyteller. Each track tells a different story mired in feelings that are a register apart but of the same tenor as the album artwork — blue, yellow or black. For example, a track like “You Cannot Know the Emptiness” is hopeful and bright, but bleak nonetheless with the insight that “there-s nothing to see in sunshine, it only hides the sky.” “Dreamland” reflects its title with twinkling vibraphone and Irwin-s sweet vocals — until he sings “nothing-s gonna come with you to dreamland,” and then the trumpet sounds and the track wails like a warped, lonely nightmare. 

“Where the River Got the Water” is ostensibly classically country — it-s a romantic track you could slow dance to, but it-s vibrating with an anxiousness. “Cheekbone to cheekbone, and coming apart,” Irwin sings. Every airy thought is reined in by a kind of stark realism, very much mimicking the way our thoughts roll — sometimes hopeful, other times the devil-s advocate.

Irwin says the sounds came after the lyrics. The result is that Stars Blue Wheel is beautiful and delicate, graceful and soaked in Irwin-s relaxed croon, but undergirded by a deep well of knowledge — of death, of things ending, of sadness. The album is haunting, but tries so hard to be optimistic. Give it a listen — it-ll make you smile or cry.  
(Independent)

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