It has been too long since we’ve had a new collection of songs from James Forest. His last lyrical album was in 2017 with the stunning James Forest and the East Road. Since then, he has released the instrumental albums Music for Films Vol 1 and 2.
Now, James Forest returns with his new album, All Shades of Purple. It is a collection of songs that yet again showcases his multi-instrumental talents. He uses instruments including guitars, Wurlitzer, Casio SK-1, Moog grandmother, Korg micro-preset, Yamaha cs-5, tape loops and bass pedals. He uses them to weave subtle but captivating layers of music within each song. He has also brought in Sandy Davis (vocals on “Smoke”), David Marchand (pedal steel guitar on “Smoke”), and Brett Lanier (pedal steel guitar on “Days Go By”) to add something different to a few of his tracks.
Forest has gained a reputation for creating music that has a natural and free-flowing manner. His opening track “Lately” is a perfect example of this trait. There are a few seconds of silence before he counts in then his story begins. He does so with the sound of his guitar that performs delicately. It is soothing on the ears. Then, Forest joins in with the opening lines, “Lately, I’ve been alone / Walking on a narrow line / I’ve been alone”. As the song progresses, it is clear to hear how the music moves without any urgency. The words and its soundtrack can breathe, giving it an appealing and captivating quality.
Listen to “Smoke” off of All Shades of Purple
His gentle guitar style continues into the beautiful “Give Love”. It’s difficult not to get lost within his words. “Moments of Grace” lets the listener enjoy some more of Forest’s great work on his six-string. His fingerpicking style is as soothing as his voice. His fingers dance around the strings to create an enchanting tone. He then adds a psychedelic vibe towards the second half of the track. It blends with his guitar to create a mood which at times, overshadows his lyrics. It all comes together to the first stand out moment from the album.
Talking of stand out moments, “Smoke” stands tall above the rest. Its intro feels different as he has switched his guitar for keys. Like those before, it flows so effortlessly to set the mood for the song. Soon, Forest joins in with his words, “Firewood smoke dancing in the pines / In the late afternoon light / A little house in the country / A little glass of wine”.
As the song continues, the listener will notice an additional voice provided by Sandy Davis. Her addition enhances the track further. Especially how their vocals intertwine for the lines “You’re trying to find a home, you’re looking for a job / Just try to take care of the one you love / You gotta find a place to settle down / Baby, you’re still wandering around”. A faultless moment from beginning to end. Following up comes “Someone Like You” and “Born to Die”. Both offer the usual delicate sound but are a little overshadowed by the calibre of songwriting that “Smoke” had to offer.
All Shades of Purple is an album filled with beautiful layers of music. However, his storytelling quality delivers a lot too. There have been a few songs in which this talent has stood out, “Magic” is another moment that highlights his way with his lyrics. His opening lines paint the scene, “Up all night talking about the end of the world / Waiting for the sunrise and its warm colours”. The detail and emotions he shares have depth and delivered with an honest tone. Sometimes he uses simple words that have more of an impact. No lines show this more than, “In the wide-open somewhere / Our souls will be free / In the wide-open somewhere / No weight, no worries”.
James Forest has assembled yet another beautiful collection of songs that does not disappoint with ‘All Shades of Purple’
“Days Go By” brings another showcase of his musical talents before the album comes to a close with “Ways Mills”. Like its opening track, “Ways Mills” is yet another perfect representation of the music of James Forest. His fingers dance around his guitar to create yet another mesmerising tone. His vocals are soothing as he shares his words to provoke imagery, especially with lines such as “Country roads and beautiful trees / Time dissolves in the breeze / As the sunset dances in your eyes / The horizon becomes waves of light”. As the song comes to a close, it leaves you relaxed. It is the beautiful nature of the album and another reason why All Shades of Purple is essential listening.