James Hollingsworth
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James Hollingsworth

Bristol, England, United Kingdom | SELF

Bristol, England, United Kingdom | SELF
Band EDM Singer/Songwriter

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"... straight from the soul..."

"It’s rare nowadays for it to be irrefutably true that a vocalist genuinely means every word he sings. This much doesn’t so much confirm itself to be true as leap out from behind a nearby rock and slap you about the face with a frozen kipper."

Full review:
‘Coming Home to Stay’ is a collection of songs written over a sixteen-year period, during which the world has undeniably seen some phenomenal changes. Therefore, something that immediately caught my attention was the fact that the tracklisting was in no kind of chronological order whatsoever. Would this mean that the CD lacked cohesion? Would this even matter? I began to think not as soon as Hollingsworth’s impassioned vocals reached over and pulled my tired eyelids open. Opening track Sooner or Later’s assertion that “Looking around the world it’s hard to see how things will ever get better” is hard to disagree with when given the thought that this music inspires. It’s rare nowadays for it to be irrefutably true that a vocalist genuinely means every word he sings. This much doesn’t so much confirm itself to be true as leap out from behind a nearby rock and slap you about the face with a frozen kipper. Hollingsworth’s guitar playing is also gloriously uncalculated and astonishingly heartfelt, sometimes giving little concern to structure. If it wasn’t for the excellent production I’d believe that these tracks were recorded on a portable tape in a mountain forest in a single afternoon.

A partial first viewing of The Doors film last night made me appreciate music in its purest form again overnight after recent forays deep into digital territory. This CD brought to mind The Doors, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake and just about every revered artist from that era who stood out through stamping their personality on every song in a way that is impossible by any means except as a natural default. James Hollingsworth’s songs couldn’t be described as the sound of the future, they could have been written any time in the last thirty-plus years or any moment in the rest of time and will still stand alone on their own merits. Singer-songwriters are largely ridiculed nowadays, or are lumped together in one monochrome net by scornful scenesters but great art, to my mind, can largely be defined as personal expression that comes straight from the soul of its creator. This is exactly what is on offer here.


Highlights include ‘Beyond Revelation’ with guitar playing so starkly emotive it feels like it would fall apart if you reached out and prodded it, overlayered with singing that cracks and flutters alternately to almost dizzying effect. ‘Way Down South’ is a flamenco-tinged canter that wouldn’t sound out of place on a psychedelic arthouse film set in the Nevada desert. A piano appears on ‘Saturday Road Ahead’ and I imagined myself standing at the top of a cliff in a tiny village in Iceland in November with aurora borealis bringing the sky to life.


The epic ‘Long Way Out’ is really quite a voyage – the intro showcases Hollingsworth’s impressive dexterity and is lent a spooky edge by the faint sound of conversation simmering underneath, then the song itself sets off on a dusty country road, with the singer at one point sounding like a blue whale giving its mournful cry across the ocean. It’s one of those rare pieces of music that if it went on forever may just draw the listener into its own Bermuda triangle – see also ‘The End’ by the Doors and ‘Galaxy of Emptiness’ by Beth Orton to name just two.

I was left wondering if these were simply highlights hand-picked from a library of yet to be discovered treasures. If so then I suggest we all take a week off work, head out to the Cornish countryside and hole up in a house several centuries old for James Hollingsworth appreciation week. Who’s with me?

- Dave Urwin, Live Music Scene - www.live-music-scene.co.uk


"James Hollingsworth wows the POW!"

"This guy, who writes and performs all his own stuff, brought all his own equipment with him, making it look like he was setting up to play at Wembley.
But this painstaking attention to detail definitely paid off as the sound emanating from this man's guitar was crystal clear even above the usual hubbub of friendly banter that emanated from the pub's every oriface.
Let's just say that this guy had a voice. I don't mean like a normal everyday voice. I mean one of those singing voices that is so powerful and full of emotion that it was hard not to feel blown away by how good he was.
Hollingsworth's songs were at once folky, soulful, insightful and emotional and his audience banter was also there in spades, making him a very prolific performer.
A testament to how good this guy was is that he had no shortage of people offering to buy him drinks both during and after his set.
If you get a chance, see James play as soon as possible as it won't be too long before he's picked up by a record label." - Wiltshire Ocelot, July 2008.
- Wiltshire Ocelot


""Coming Home to Stay" album review"

of "Coming Home to Stay" album:
"JAMES HOLLINGSWORTH of Bristol, UK is talented. That's an obvious statement and one that few would argue over. It's the degrees of the talent that might cause a few to squabble. Is he a better singer, than guitarist? Is he a better poet than musician? Who's his contemporary in the American scene?? (You know how we love comparisons.) In the end, we all know it doesn't matter, but we enjoy trying to dissect another's giftedness as if to 'discover' for ourselves a shortcut to their greatness. But even if we're successful at pinpointing what it is that we think makes them special, without their particular DNA, we can only hope for, at best, a substandard duplication, but hardly a flattering imitation, of their uniqueness.

"James Hollingsworth is UNIQUE and dare I go out on a limb, I don't think he has an equal, especially when you consider the sub total of what he does.., and how he does it. Yes, there's the obvious John Martyn reference that will undoubtedly arise when you listen to him in passing, but with the exception of them being fellow countrymen, the comparison is unfair, being more than a few generations apart, there's something decidedly more spiritual and mystical in James' writings. COMING HOME TO STAY is a journeyman's CD in that the songs represent many different stages of growth and musicianship as they span from 2001 to the present day. But the journey isn't necessarily his to travel along, but you're invited in a most intimate way to participate, from the opening lines of the first tune, Sooner or Later (2003) where he offers you the opportunity of common introspection:

"When you look around the World
It's hard to imagine how things are gonna get better
Without feeling like an idealistic fool...

"I don't wish to divulge my point of view on the remaining 11 tunes as what I truly feel and learned about myself as I listened is quite personal and I suspect you'll feel the same, if you give the full CD a full and complete listen. I can only implore you to take the journey with James through his poignant songbook in this latest release and then let him know personally how he's touched your soul, as he undoubtedly will. Musically, lyrically and vocally, it's stunning and thought-provoking and just sits well in your spirit as you listen...

"James, thank you for honoring me in your liner notes. It prohibits me from writing much more than a personal homage to my friend, which I gladly and publicly acknowledge. Today, I feel particularly unworthy of such recognition for having only told you the truth from the very beginning about what your music means to me and I suspect to many others. Be very proud of this latest effort and know that it's timely and topical and... touching. Thank you for 'Coming Home to Stay', performed, composed, engineered and designed completely by yourself. I suspect that this might just be why you have few equals!! I pray you PEACE as your journey continues."
`EDEN of Albuquerque - `EDEN of Albuquerque


"Abbey Mill Folk Festival review, 2006"

"James Hollingsworth’s main stage set on the Saturday afternoon of the festival ranged from what was grounded in the traditional – a voice buzzing in the ear, the familiar plucked guitar – to what seemed to border on the celestial, as both voice and a much effected, but delicately measured, acoustic guitar swept back and forth across the arena. James’ performance was captivating…truly so, as many followed him to the intimate surroundings of the Bar Stage later in the afternoon, where an equally diverse mixture of songs and styles was in evidence." - Abbey Mill Folk Festival, 2006 - Abbey Mill Folk Festival, 2006


"Gig review - Portsmouth 2007"

"Then Nick asked me to stay there and do "People Live On" - Rich and Nick stayed on too and sang "harmony" LOL - I loved all of us doing separate bits at the end in the "people live on people live on people live on" bits. Loved doing that with Nick and Rich.

"....and then there was James Hollingsworth...

"- well by the time he'd finished I had 2 pages of notes and adrenalin coming out of my pores. I was itching to get his album once he'd finished - and i'm listening to it as I write this. It's bloody brilliant.

"- live he started quite subdued....did a couple of mellow songs , in a mellow stance, and a mellow tone to his voice...then he sang possible the sweetest version of "Happy Birthday" i've ever heard - for Rach.

"Then he hit the stratosphere.

"I'll throw some names out that I thought of while I listened - Cat Stevens, Ian Anderson, Roy Harper, Geddy Lee...there was loads going on....and he was just passing through LOL

"'You're not the only one' was the first song he did when he really went for it - and it was beautiful - fantastic song.

"Then he did a song which he introduced by saying "this is a song about living on the same planet..we've got a long way to go" - perfect introduction. The song starts with the line "if you look around the world its hard to imagine how things are gonna get better" - the song is "Sooner or Later" and the CD version is just as good as it was live. Powerful stuff.

"Then he completely blew me away. Not sure what the song is called....(if you're reading this James, i'd love to know) It was incredible - he got himself into it by playing this strident riff, staring at the audience and swaying to the song's rhythm - the song was being built up to this huge rock beast right from the start....then he started singing - in a way he hadn't up to this point - and it was amazing - huge delivery - fast, staccato, biting lines punctuated with this fast, big, riffing guitar. It had a kind of "Ritchie Havens 'Freedom'" rhythm, if you know Woodstock - but it had a powerful sense of urgency. It was breathtaking. The last line (sang really quick) "thank you please just to leave me aloooooooone" - it was HUGE! lol - brilliant.

"- then he had to follow it! LOL

"A beautiful song called "Walk the Earth" which had me singing along in my chair (I was disappointed it wasn't on the album....but it's a good excuse to buy his others LOL) - a great song that reminded me of Steve Knightley. Nice percussive slapping on the guitar on this one.

"He was a really nice bloke too - afterward me and Andy Brown were chatting to him - and Andy asked him to write something ridiculous on his inlay booklet (I won't say what it was but it's not something you'd expect someone to write) - and he did LOL - great stuff.

"Still listening to the album - i'm on track 11 now - it's brilliant. Powerful performances, distinctive songwriting, a prog rock sensibility paired down to the acoustic as Roy Harper would have it, and the perfect production. Brilliant. So pleased I have the CD.

"Shame Ritchie Leo missed it, he would have loved him..." - GARETH HOWELLS


"Gig review - Jim Moray support"

"James Hollingsworth is no stranger to Bristol audiences and we have come to expect strongly crafted, beautifully sung songs and stunning guitar work." - www.crackerjack.co.uk


"Gig review - Death and Rebirth"

"The evening ended with a blistering set from guitar-shaman and sublime songsmith, James Hollingsworth. He was ‘resurrected’ for a stunning encore of Led Zep’s classic ‘In My Time of Dying’ – a suitable way to end our evening themed on ‘Death & Rebirth’." - Bard of Bath Kevan Wanwaring, Garden of Awen, Bath


""Coming Home to Stay" album review"


James has really established himself now as a prolific song writing machine. He continues to come up with clever lyrics and haunting melodies. From the recording process through the production to the art work, is no less than pro quality.

This CD contains twelve tracks featuring James's superb vocal performance and excellent guitar playing. It's hard to choose a favourite or least favourite track because they are all good.

At the end of the day of course it comes down to personal choice. The tracks I liked best were 'WAY DOWN SOUTH' and 'STILL LIGHTS UP THE RAIN'. I have no reason for that choice other than they were the most pleasing to my musical ear.

There are lots of influences filtering through this collection from the likes of 'Donovan' 'Cat Stevens' or whatever his name is now, 'Ralph McTell', 'Leonard Cohen' etc. (I use the older names because I am old), but that can only be a good thing and I think you will love this CD from what must be one of the best song writers in the country.
We should be able to add him to our Famous Bristol Musicians Section soon! - www.bristolrock.co.uk


"The Independent's 5 Best Gigs"

"The much-touted young Bristol-based guitar wizard and songwriter, who has been compared to Richard Thompson, Al Stewart and early Fleetwood Mac, travels in possession of a mean harmonica style and a rapid-fire, Spanish-influenced guitar-picking technique." - The Independent


"These are deep, powerful songs, not your ordinary mainstream fluff"

James Hollingsworth is one of my top ten favorite male singer/songwriters of all time!

His songs are haunting tone-poems that get under your skin and make you want to go back again and again. Soaring vocals, goose-bumps, a gorgeous, authoritative, clear voice that stands strong on top of minimal accompanying instrumentation, a master of inflection, a major vocal+songwriting talent combination.

Instruments are one or two acoustic guitars, harmonica, an occasional soulful electric guitar lead without distortion, and piano on one song.

I hear subtle influences in his vocal style coming from Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, Ray LaMontagne, Cat Stevens, and every now and then, just a touch of Richie Havens and even Joe Cocker (but not in Cocker's "extreme" mode, if you know what I mean!) James' note: "Yes, definitely! Except the ones with letter 'M's and 'W's in their names."

These are deep, powerful songs, not your ordinary mainstream fluff. You will think about them. There is a psycho-spiritual understanding embedded in them that cannot be pigeonholed as this-or-that philosophy. You will find many gems of insight in them.

I would like to comment on three of the songs on this CD.


Still Lights Up the Rain-- This song appears to have strong influential ties, for those who go back far enough, to Jefferson Starship's first album, Blows Against the Empire (1970); in particular, to a song on that album called Have You Seen the Stars Tonight? The modal acoustic tonalities in both songs transport me back to a very nostalgic, 60's-idealistic time in my life. In this song (and others) his acoustic work has the feel of Bruce Cockburn and the Jorma Kaukonen / Paul Kantner combination in acoustic Jefferson Starship and earlier acoustic Jefferson Airplane songs. [Lyric excerpt: Watching for the Stars in the City skies / Amber reflections banish them from our eyes / As we sit here smiling in the Garden of Eden / Overgrown by the years of neglect / By unnamed others, a legacy of the past imperfect...] - James' note: "Hmmm... actually I've never heard that album. Saw Jefferson Starship at Reading 1988, but can't remember any of their songs. Sounds like I should check out the Airplane instalment of that collective! Oh, sorry, I'm turning this into an interview..."


Coming Home to Stay (title song)-- almost makes me cry (in a good way, of course.) A feeling from my past, a letting-go, an accepting that felt so relieving and so right, a closure of a chapter in my life. Strong, strident acoustic guitar chords-- he gets more dynamics out of his acoustic guitar than many are capable of on electric. [Lyric excerpt: People laughing with their friends / They laugh the world away / People clinging to their dreams / They let them slip away / Oh I couldn't hold on til the end / I let it pass me by / All meaning scattered to the winds / And never free to cry... Oh, God! He knows the reason / Coming home to stay...]


Saturday Road Ahead-- this song is so powerful! Same effect on me emotionally. I put my box on "repeat" the first time I heard it, sang to it six times in a row. [Lyric excerpt: I see the sky open up before me / I see my road is soon to bend / I couldn't face, no I couldn't face that again / But I see the time is coming for a change... I thought I saw myself, I turned as if to say / you'd better pick up the pieces / before they blow away...]

- Van Casey - MUSIC AND SPIRIT - Van Casey - MUSIC AND SPIRIT


Discography

'Two and Two' - (2010) EP of 5 songs including 3 recorded live at St George's Hall, Bristol.
'The Joyful Returning' - compilation of more far-out stuff and more requests (2009)
'Precession of the Albums' - compilation of most-requested originals (2009)
'Eight Your Nature' - (2008)
'Seventh String' - (2007)
'Coming Home to Stay' - (2007)
'Sinking without You' (with rock band JEBO, produced by John Burns) - (2006 + 2008 in Germany Otte Music)
'Alive in 2005' - (2005)
'Snapshot' - EP (2004)
'Long Way Out' - (2003)
'40 Minutes of Peace' - (2002)
'Improvisations 27' - (1997)

Photos

Bio

"young Bristol-based guitar wizard" - 5 best gigs - The Independent

James Hollingsworth has a unique, complex acoustic guitar style, reminiscent of Andalusian guitar fusing elements of folk, blues, trance, metal and psychedelic rock. Since turning professional in 2006, he's had BBC airplay on 6Music, toured as far West as Cornwall, as far East as Kent & as far North as Lancashire, notably at Priddy Folk Fayre, Two Rivers Festival, Bath Fringe Festival, Winter's End Festival + supports for Cara Dillon, Hazel O'Connor, Nick Harper, 60's legends It's a Beautiful Day and Barry 'The Fish' Melton (of Country Joe and The Fish), who said:

"It was truly a phenomenal experience hearing James Hollingsworth's music, I know now that the tradition of groundbreaking music is in good hands. Thank you, James – Barry Melton." - Barry 'The Fish' Melton (of Country Joe and The Fish),