Jemima James brings us ‘Silver and Gold’

A release date is set for the Island musician’s latest album.


Island musician Jemima James’ new album, “Silver and Gold,” has been released from the nest it was nurtured in, and is flying free at last. Luckily, the Island community will get the opportunity to hear it, and help James celebrate this accomplishment, at her album release party on Friday, July 12. The shindig is being held in the charming S&S Kitchenette on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, starting at 7 pm.

“I started making the album about two years ago, in Stanford, Vt.,, where my producer Lilah Larson had a studio,” James said. Larson is from NYC, but has spent a lot of time on the Island, as her grandmother, Rose Styron, lives here year-round. According to, Lilah Larson is a composer, a multi-instrumentalist, and has worked in several areas of the music industry. “She’d invited me up, and at that point I wasn’t planning to make a record, but we played together, and not too long after, I went back up and started recording. Slowly, over time, we finished the album there, as well as here, with various musicians — some local and some not. Lilah’s invitation is what got the ball rolling.”

This isn’t James’ first album, and given her prolific songwriting skills, it would be surprising if it were her last. “I’ve made a few albums over the years,” James said. “This is my second album on the label Team Love, a label in New Paltz, N.Y.” 

“Silver and Gold” comprises 10 songs. “It’s a mix of three cover songs, and the rest are originals — some new and some never recorded,” James said. “If I Can’t Get Gold” is one of the songs on the album that James wrote years ago, but never recorded. It was released on June 21. “There’s one song that is 40 years old, called ‘Utah Trail,’ which is an old cowboy song my dad and I used to sing harmonies on. Lilah brought a whole new young kind of sound to it.” 

Also included on the album is “Lazybones,” James’ most recent song, which will be released on July 10. “I needed new songs for this record, and I was procrastinating. It had been a long time since I wrote a song, and ‘Lazybones’ came out altogether,” she said. “The lyrics are directed at me, my depression and repressed anger (childhood stuff) that lead to self-destructive behavior (alcohol, drugs, watching TV and the news).” Some of the lyrics in “Lazybones” are, “What you doing lazybones. Laying ’round in bed. Watching cockatoos squawk the news, bobbin their head.” The last verse, “Lazybones bury that hatchet do,” James says is about forgiveness.

“Many times I’d struggle to sing, especially with recording and performing. It probably comes from growing up with a scary, strict, high-strung, alcoholic father who came from the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ school of child-rearing,” she said. “When I got to be a young adult, we got along great. He was a funny man, a good singer, and loved a party. In the ’80s I told a musician friend that I couldn’t write or sing without alcohol, and he said, ‘So you’re a part-time musician.’ I’m settling more comfortably into my sober voice now.” 

The emotion expressed in James’ music is palpable. Her voice reflects a life fully lived — throaty, authentic, deep, and soulful. And so many of her songs, like “Silver Rope,” which was released on June 20, are visceral and alluring — making the listener, in my case anyway, shiver. 

James’ strategy for choosing which songs to include on the album was largely intuitive. “I start playing and choose what feels good at the time — what songs resonate with me,” she said. “The old cowboy song finally felt right. I’m 74, and it’s getting a little harder to find the sounds that I want vocally. I didn’t like how ‘Utah Trail’ sounded with me singing the lead. I had always sung the harmony, until I needed songs for the album and buckled down and got working on it. It helped having Willy [Jemima’s son, musician Willy Mason] play bass and drums to get the feel right. I’m always grateful for my sons and their musical groove chops.” James has been writing a lot of prose and songs of late, and finding the process pleasing: “I just keep doing it and getting together and playing with people. It just feels good.” 

Accompanying James on the album are Lilah Larson — acoustic, electric, and slide guitars, bass, drums, percussion, keyboards, accordion; Aiden Earley — keyboards, percussion, piano; Tokata Iron Eyes — vocals; Lexie Roth — vocals; Johnny Hoy — harmonica; Hannah Read — fiddle; Levi Gillis — saxophone; Willy Mason — vocals, acoustic guitar, drums, bass; Josh Campbell — mandolin; Shawn Barber — upright bass; Anna Barber — accordion; Cassandra Jenkins — vocals, banjo; and Sonoma the dog, with her punctuating bark.

To hear and purchase James’ music, visit for a list of streaming options. To hear her song “Silver Rope,” visit