James Speer
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James Speer

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James Speer's new album, Sixes and Sevens, is the work of a man who studied classical piano, who cites Peter Gabriel, Coldplay and Dave Matthews among his major influences, and who sounds a lot like Marc Cohn. Speer sings a full, throaty tenor, the way a man should sing. But his sensitivity and musical complexity don't limit him to bellowing vocals and continuously driving rock; Speer knows when his music needs sensitivity, and he uses complex progressions to make his point. Rarely do you hear a tenor with so much control over his instrument.

The album begins on a slightly melancholy note, with Speer playing a demure piano on "Already Gone." Longtime Austin producer Carl Thiel collaborates with Speer, layering the vocals as would Gabriel. Sliding down to "It Would Seem," we hear more of a country and blues influence in Speer's music. He clearly took his time penning the lyrics, showing a penchant for meditation rarely found in today's pop world. The album stays fairly mellow through the first four tracks, the searing yet cerebral song "View" being particularly exquisite.

As most stories go, your second act must build on the first. Speer's album builds, nudging the listener all the way to the end. "Farewell to Nichole" waltzes forward; and drummer Chris Leonard rides his cymbals like Carter Beauford. "Been a Long Time" sounds so much like Cohn's "Walking in Memphis" that the comparison is a no-brainer. "I Never" sums up the album's format, entering quietly with nylon-stringed arpeggios, building to a scream and closing out in reflection. Then Speer takes the listener on a harmonica ride a la John Popper (Blues Traveler) with "Balance" and achieves his schizophrenic best with "Blood Red Eyes." Lastly, "Jupiter Demeanor" seems to hover in front of the listener as Speer sings: "Close your eyes/I hope you like to fly."

Every song on Sixes and Sevens speaks of maturity. Speer sings unapologetically of vice and virtue, love and loss, without giving you the impression you've heard the story before. Indeed, it is a strong debut and a much-needed relief from today's chic falsetto-boy R&B.
--Tommy Marth
tommy_marth@yahoo.com - Tommy Marth


musicemissions.com

Speer - Sixes and Sevens
James Speer is a singer/songwriter who is ready to make his mark on the
musical world. The music on Sixes and Sevens is superbly crafted and
delivered in the most respectful manner. Speer utilizes the piano in a
few songs reminding me of Mark Cohn (as does his voice). The rest of
the band is rounded out by Scott Clark (guitar), Chris Leonard (drums)
and Mike Cullen (bass). The music could easily fit into an AOR format
with it's low-key rock ethos. Thoughtful lyrics is what makes Speer
stand out, along with some interesting arrangements could possibly put
this band out in the forefront of the music industry. He gets a little
rowdy on "Blood Red Eyes" but nothing that gets to grating on the
nerves. This sort of music is not really my thing but Speer sounds like
an artist that could go a long way if he ever achieved radio play. Keep
an eye out for him.
Label - Year: indie 2003
Try if you like -
Mark Cohn, John Hiatt
- musicemissions.com


http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2003-10-17/music_phases10.html
OCTOBER 17, 2003
Phases and Stages
Texas Platters

BY MATT DENTLER

Speer

Sixes &Sevens Hesitation has nowhere to hide on Sixes &Sevens , the debut from local rock quartet Speer. Stutters pop in and out, but arrangements are so assured, nearly every second feels confident. This is the kind of sing-for-your-supper entertainment you get from a session band as seasoned as the one Austin vocalist/pianist James Speer has put together. The songs are ripe to bursting, ready to stand center stage. Backing everyone from Vallejo to Monte Montgomery, Speer understands the meaning of fleshing out a good tune until it's ready to pop. There's no other explanation why songs like "View" pack so much punch from within simple melodies. Evidently, Speer learned plenty from the back of the stage, considering this album is miles beyond most of the Sixth Street headliners he plays with. Speer sings like Bob Mould and plays piano like Joe Jackson. He writes songs made for the stage, though they're occasionally too saccharine. Big Head Todd makes more in-your-face music than this. While good tunes don't always have to be ballsy, Speer could stand to throw a curve every once in a while. "Blue Bowl" and "It Would Seem" are almost too easily likable. What the songs lack in edge, Speer compensates for in delivery. Meanwhile, "Flatliner" hints at the greatness this band has waiting for it. With only one album under their belt, Speer already sounds like a group of pop veterans.
- Austin Chronicle


You've probably already heard the music of local singer/songwriter and
pianist James Speer, even if you haven't yet heard his name. Since his
arrival in Austin in 1992, he has performed with the likes of well-known
local artists Bob Schneider, the Scabs, Monte Montgomery, Overlord, and
Vallejo (to name a few). Or perhaps you've caught James in his nearly
10 year tenure as house piano-man at downtown comedy theatre Esther's
Follies.

More likely still, you've heard James with his new, aptly-named solo
project "Speer" on nationally syndicated television programs like The Shield.

Well, they?re not entirely new. Originally concepted in 1997, Speer
carved out a comfortable niche in Austin?s music scene for more than three
years until James began to feel that his music, and the vision he held for
its performance, had not yet reached its full potential. "I wanted a new group
of musicians that would do great things with relying on being a party
band to get that attention," says James of the state of the Austin scene at the
time.

Now in its second incarnation, though the band commonly illicits
comparisons to artists as diverse as Peter Gabriel, Coldplay, Ben Folds, and David
Gray, they all share the thread of complex, piano-driven melodies propelling a
unique vocal presentation and style.

Speer?s passionate live performances radiate a rare, soulful intensity that
reflects the tonal and thematic character of each song. Their music
blends equal parts straight rock and modern radio-alternative with cerebral
(though accessible) chordal movement and dynamic rhythms to create some of the
best music in the local scene.

Speer have made their recently released their debut album Sixes and Sevens
available at the Waterloo Records listening stations, as well as online on
at cdbaby.com.

Sounds like: Peter Gabriel, Ben Folds, Tori Amos
Artist Website: www.speermusic.com

Max Harger

- Daily Texan


http://highbias.com/index.html

Listening with extreme prejudice

February 15, 2004

SPEER
Sixes &Sevens
(Random Art)
Austin loves its singer/songwriters, as long as they wield acoustic guitars, pretend they have something to do with country or blues and sound ready for triple-A radio. Which explains why I've never heard of James Speer, whose ivory tickling, electric band and obvious love of classic pop melodies puts him in a different league altogether than his folkie brethren around here. Speer's lush tuneage contrasts tastily with the forthright rocking of his band, and this album is a minor gem. Consumer warning: Speer has the same weird, semi-strangled voice as Dave Matthews and John Mayer, so if that bugs you, approach with caution. Michael Toland - High Bias


The John Shelton Ivany Top 21 #164 1-29-04 to 2-4-04

--Speer, 'Sixes &Sevens' Random Art/Burnside --They express superb song
writing and emotive vocals fusing blues with jazz, rock and folk which
describe
this album whose songs are as haunting, alluring, and imaginative as the
title suggests. Their minimalist garage rock proves it has more depth and
power
than even their more optimistic critics expected. On slow-burning tracks
Speer's
songwriting talent finally matches his love of the blues.

- The John Shelton Ivany Top 21



http://www.news-4u.com/features/columns/CDreviews.htm

My first impression of Sixes &Sevens, other than the name highly reminiscent of Mock Orange's Nines, was that vocalist and bandleader James Speer sounded a lot like a laid-back love child born of Steve Winwood and Ben Folds. On one hand, there was the ubiquitous piano, also offered up by Mr. Speer. On the other, at times James' voice sounded exactly like Winwood's, especially when really projecting.

So I tossed it in the 'maybe later' pile.

Later came and I gave Speer's debut album another try. It turns out this Austin, Texas based quartet serves their fine musical city well. After getting over the Winwood thing (which wasn't all that eerily similar after all), it's easy to like Sixes &Sevens. There's a lushness to every track, particularly in the big chorus of 'View,' which goes from an airy piano/ride cymbal kind of thing to a funky wah wah vibe and then back again. 'Balance' is a great example of judiciously using background vocals here they're used sparingly but in all the right spots, in all, this is probably the standout track.

James Speer's efforts are backed solidly by guitarist Scott Clark, Chris Leonard on drums and bass player Mike Cullen. And while there are some less-than-stellar compositions here, Speer is really good. To me it seems that they're a band that would play a really incredible live show. There's obvious energy and talent on Sixes &Sevens, but I'm not convinced Speer's full ability is being showcased. If it were, I'm sure their next album could be great.

--Paul Dockery


- news-4u


Discography

Sixes & Sevens - Full length CD - 2003

Photos

Bio

Following the release of his critically acclaimed debut CD, Sixes & Sevens, Austin, TX based singer-songwriter James Speer is back in the studio recording the beginnings of his much anticipated next album.

While Sixes & Sevens delivers a powerful blend of straight rock, pop, and alternative music, Soul Sessions takes Speer's piano-driven songs to the next level with the addition of soul, funk and pop elements to create a thoroughly modern R&B sound.

Influenced by the progressive approaches of bands like Jamiroquai, Beck, Peter Gabriel, and Sting, Speer's music is charged with a compelling mix of spirit, soul, and depth that electrifies both audiences and critics alike. The combination of dynamic chord progressions and hook-like rhythms create a brand of music that is at once cutting-edge and accessible.

A musician known and respected by his peers, Speer has performed and recorded with some of Austin's best-known acts, including Bob Schneider, Monte Montgomery, Vallejo, George Devore, the Scabs, M.C. Overlord, Malford Milligan, and Tyrone Vaughn.

The album Sixes & Sevens can be found on iTunes.com, Amazon.com and CDBaby.com

Highlights --
**Two tracks from the Sixes & Sevens album ('It Would Seem' and 'Already Gone') were recently featured on FX network's Golden Globe award winning show "The Shield."

**James Speer was named BEST MALE VOCALIST at the 2004 JUST PLAIN FOLKS MUSIC AWARDS in Beverly Hills, Ca, where his album Sixes & Sevens also came in 3rd in the BEST ROCK ALBUM category and 4th in the BEST MODERN ROCK SONG category with the Sixes & Sevens track 'Already Gone.'

**Sixes & Sevens tracks 'Already Gone' and 'Blue Bowl' have each been named TRACK OF THE WEEK by audiences of Garageband.com. Several other songs from Sixes & Sevens have won awards on the site including BEST MALE VOCALS and BEST KEYBOARDS. www.garageband.com/artist/jamesspeer

**James Speer showcased at the SXSW MUSIC CONFERENCE & FESTIVAL 2004 in Austin, TX and was named as one of Miller High Life's TOP 50 IN SHOW.

**James Speer showcased at the CMJ MUSIC MARATHON 2003 in New York, NY.

**Several songs from Sixes & Sevens have appeared among the TOP 3 RADIO CHART RANKINGS in multiple college markets across the U.S. and Canada.

**Sixes & Sevens was named the 4th BEST ALBUM of 2003 by the Austin Chronicle.

**James Speer has been featured on the 'Local Licks Live' program of Austin, TX radio station KLBJ FM, on the 'Tex-Mix' program on Austin, TX television station ME Television, and has been profiled in a feature article by the Austin, TX lifestyle magazine 512.

Band Members