Despite having been imbued with music his entire life, James McCartney didn’t start performing his own songs live until his thirties. He performed on albums by his parents Paul and Linda McCartney, but didn’t release his own material until 2010. The time wasn’t misspent as he was writing music the whole way to his initial E.P.s Available Light and Close at Hand. Those collections of songs focused on crisp rock n’ roll aesthetics underlying McCartney’s incredibly personal themes. He dove deeper into these traits on his first full length album, Me, expanding his lyrics with spirituality and even more nuanced instrumentation. His progression felt natural and revealing, leading up to what is a pretty big leap with his second album The Blackberry Train, which was released earlier this year.
The Blackberry Train stays true to his lyrical direction but switches his sonic output quite drastically. The songs emerge rougher than before with multiple moments sounding more akin to McCartney’s ’90s influences Nirvana and The Pixies. It’s no surprise that the album comes out that much more exuberant than his previous work given Steve Albini behind the boards and McCartney’s professed enjoyment of a more grunge-laden sound. “Unicorn” and “Peyote Coyote” are clear examples of this shift and are instant album highlights. They launch into deeper psychedelic notes that are incredibly invigorating and inviting. The whole album feels like an interesting new height for McCartney with even the more familiar and softer folk sounds of album closer “Peace and Stillness” pushing his talents forward.
McCartney is touring in support of The Blackberry Train, making a stop at Schubas on June 21 where he will be joined by local power pop band Mooner. They’re full length debut, Masterpiece, centers their guitars on the ups and downs of love. The album is filled with powerful hooks and simple lyrics that hold more meaning and emotion then they initially seem. Their sound harkens back to the pop songwriters of the ’70s, as you can easily hear the essence of Big Star and early Elvis Costello in their songs.
James McCartney and Mooner are a wonderful match and sure to put on some exceptional performances at Schubas, 3159 N Southport Ave., at 8pm on June 21. The show is 21+ and ticket are currently available for $15.