Ceri James ‘City Of Fields’  (Heed/Deep River Records)

Ceri James ‘City Of Fields’ (Heed/Deep River Records)

Everything about the unassuming and succinctly expressed music and demeanor of Ceri James is, endearingly, personal. His latest folksy-charmed EP, City Of Fields, is in itself an earnest affair that charts the singer/songwriter’s ‘country boy in the city’ plight. Like a proverbial ‘fish-out-of-water’, James’s stripped acoustic numbers point out both the highs and lows of making it in south east London: the lad from the sticks adjusts to the loneliness of a struggling musician.

Released via his own humble Heed, and in partnership with, the mostly, Deptford scene label Deep River Records, this generous ten-track collection showcases a quartet of new songs and acoustic/alternative versions of older material.

Setting the main thematic conflicts into motion with the gentle lilting ‘Blythe Hill Fields’, James escapes to the outside from his own cabin fever to feel alive again, taking in the local landmarks as he muses, “The horizon is good for your mind.”

A series of female protagonists lay at the heart of the following three plaintive tracks: ‘Becky’s Life’ suggests a certain loss of innocence in the mode of Van Morrison; ‘Serious Women And Men’ has, like its title alludes, a more solemn nature, played-out in a country bowed style; and ‘The Last Swear I Was There’ opens out into a reminiscing paean to a special someone, who took away the melancholy from this boy for a brief time.


Attenuate and stripped down to the bare necessities, the bonus section is a mix of bed-sit dramas and troubadour elegies to fond memories. Wrestling with returning home from the unsympathetic city, James’s ‘Deptford Broadway’ blues lament, and harmonic pained ‘Win Lose And Some You Can’t Tell’ sigh with resignation whilst ‘For The Loss Of A Friend’ is a poignant tribute, and ‘Hey Outsider’ cynically rebukes the treatment of those left on the fringes of glory and talent: “Hey outsider can’t you see, you’ll never write your name in history.”

On a cheerier note, the touching ode to independent coffee shops, ‘The Real Coffee Shop’. More a meeting place, or rallying beacon for the local creative community, his tribute to a New Cross favorite praises and marks its sad passing – blamed in part to the domineering presence and takeover of the high street by Starbucks, though fundamentally it is the public who create these behemoths in the first place. Sorely missed no doubt, James admits to never buying a coffee in his adopted abode, but found the owners spirit allowed unplanned jamming sessions and political/ideological debates to flourish on his premises, whilst the digital burdened world stayed outside.

City of Fields, lightly expanded with the odd touch of mandolin, banjo, strings and lap steel guitar, is an intimate and pleasurable enough experience, which improves with every listen.


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