home jamesHome, James And Don’t Spare the Horse Power - Anytime James (self released)

The dictionary defines “raunch” as “energetic earthiness; vulgarity”, and the second album from Anytime James has it in bucketloads. 

Anytime Who? Read on.

Anytime James is an outfit of musicians from the Far North Coast of New South Wales, assembled and led by former Asteroid B612 guitarist Michael Gibbons. At the risk of (more) accusations of hype, let's toss caution to the metaphorical breeze and say Anytime James might be the best band you've never heard of. Here's why.

Firstly, the players. Gibbons is on vocals and guitar, aided and abetted by Geoff Wright (Tina Turner and J.J. Cale) on guitar and bass, Tim Longworth on guitar, and Scott Hills and Lenny Reilly on drums. Mal Capewell (Chain, Renee Geyer) on sax and flute, pianist Al Park and Guy Rachel (harmonica) supply rich splashes of extra colour.

"Home, James..." has a sound that's warmer than a mid-summer Lennox Head lunchtime. Gibbons grew up on Sydney's Northern Beaches but his soulful and muscular blues-rock sound could have been conjured up in Memphis' Ardent Studios. Like its predecessor, it was put to tape at Byron Bay's 24-track Lucky Boy Studios, a place where analogue equipment is less a collection of vintage amplifiers than a way of life. For once, you really can feel the glow of the valve amps.

But it's more about the feel than the gear, and the playing is earthy, loose-tight, jammy in parts, energetic but never over-stated. Seven of its 10 songs are Gibbons originals and the choice covers - originally by Alice Cooper, the Celibate Rifles and the Stones - shouldn't surprise if you've read this far.

Michael might not be getting a call-up from the Vienna Boys Choir in a hurry but his conversational, sly vocal fits these songs like Fair Trade hemp yoga pants on a Nimbin hippy. Ther are shades of Lou Reed. Sonically speaking, it's sometimes a challenge to these ears to pick apart the weaving guitars of Gibbons and Wright and that's more than likely the intention.

The autobiographical "Wild Cat" eases you into the record slowly with intoxicating guitars and lashings of soulful sax. As a story about quitting the city and dropping out, it does its job convincingly and floats to its conclusion on a wafting, jazzy outro. "Yesterday's News" is a brusque demand for respect, "Down on the Farm" a ribald fuck-you rocker and "Hard to Scratch" a knowing and cautionary blues that pushes back on past addictions. Sobering in more than one way, and those guitars ram home its point.

"Tried to Write a Love Song" features more stinging guitar. The slide-infused take on the Rifles' "Invisible Man" is not only a respectful nod to Michael's late mate Damien Lovelock but a celebration of the man and his ex-band's spirit.

The Alice Cooper cover ("Public Animal Number 9") doesn't work as well as "Live With Me". Their songs are so well known that Stones covers are hard to pull off at the best of times, and while Michael G. can't match Mick J. blow-for-blow in the Rude and Lewd Stakes, he does OK. Anytime James cooks up a collective storm, with Mal Capewell giving the late Bobby Keyes a run for his money.

A vinyl version of "Home, James And Don’t Spare the Horse Power" is on the way but in the meantime you'll have to live with the digital files that you'll find here. So get ahead of the LP and get it downloaded.