Last year, West Tisbury musician and songwriter Jemima James fashioned a sweet collection of songs into a wonderful, well-balanced, easy listening album titled “Nothing New.” She assembled a stellar collection of musician friends and family to record the CD here on the Vineyard. Many of the songs Ms. James has performed for years. The only song on the CD she did not write is an upbeat group sing along, a rendition of the Hazel Dickens tune “Coal Miner’s Blues.”
Ms. James’s rich voice easily covers the range of songs on the album, which run the emotional gamut from plaintive to plain-old-good-time. The CD has a little country, a little folk, a little bluegrass, a little ragtime, a little rock — and a lot of good songwriting.
Ms. James has been creating songs for 40 years, recording with the likes of guitarist Michael Bloomfield, and Delta Blues singer George Higgs. She and her husband, Michael Mason, were employed as songwriters in New York City decades ago. Ms. James’s experience shows in the emotional depth of her lyrics.
The album title, “Nothing New,” could be a reference to the collection of songs which evoke the music of an earlier time, or to the fact Ms. James has performed many of the songs for years. “Nothing New” is also the name of one of the best tracks on the CD, a touching tribute to the warmth and security of a lifetime love.
Other highlights include the country tune “I’d Rather Say Goodbye [right here than further down the road]” a song about a doubtful relationship that has all the marks of a top-forty country radio song. Other songs evoke the sounds of a vintage radio with a moody, old-timey feel.
The collection of Island friends and family who contributed to the album include Ms. James’s sons, Sam and Willy Mason, Kate Taylor, Brad Tucker, Geordie Gude, Lilah Larson, Mara Carlyle, Nina Violet, Wes Nagy, and Charlie Esposito.
The album was produced by Ms. James and Bob Brown, mixed by Mr. Brown and Phil DaRosa, and made possible in part by a grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council.