26/03/2012

Jamie N Commons, Baron: a review

Listening to his voice alone, you could easily mistake this young man for a 50-year-old cigar smoking, Johnny Cash-esque, widowed and heartbroken man. Commons, in fact, is 23, British and probably quite short on heartbreak. Having released his EP ‘Baron’ late last year, this year he has spoken ambiguously of a first album. Before you get excited (did I mention that his voice is huskier than all of Siberia's dogs put together?) there has been a little concern about the authenticity of his voice.
In an interview last year, it was revealed that, after spending years unsuccessfully trying to imitate Gregg Allman, Commons settled for a substitute. He defended this by saying: "If I didn't think it was genuine I wouldn't sing in that way." A few seconds after hearing his voice and you will be lulled into contentedly accepting this defence.
Bristol-born Commons moved to Chicago as a child, before moving back to the UK to study music. Since his EP he has also released a single: ‘Devil in Me’ (also includes track ‘For You to Learn’). As his career is in the early stages, there is very little to go by in terms of Commons’ personality.
There is a video on his official website of the making of ‘Devil in Me’. Unfortunately all you really see of Commons here is an exhalation of cigarette smoke into the camera, and various shots of him standing with cogitating expressions smoking more cigarettes. In a recent interview, however, he was depicted as self-effacing and modest, and apparently only able to admit to Elvis Costello being a fan of his after the courage mustered from a few pints.
In terms of his sound, there’s a few fleeting slithers of Johnny Cash throughout Baron, otherwise, Common looks set to make his own strong sound. He says that his process is to keep his music na├»ve and as far away from any process as long as possible. He says that he wants to push the boundaries of blues. 
There’s a disparity between Commons and the likes of BB King, but there’s definitely something melancholic going on – melancholic, soothing  and beautiful. A subdued blues, if you will. Commons marks a new era for blues – one that appeals to a wider, albeit discerning, audience. The future will be interesting for Commons' fans – his sound has a great potential to mature, but there’s no way that voice can get any better.

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