Every now and again you’ll come across a CD that stops you in your tracks. You might look guiltily at the pile next to you waiting for your attention but ultimately you make the conscious decision to ignore them and hit repeat. James Gillespie’s EP Before I Die is one of these.
Listening to Before I Die you would never guess that Gillespie is a one-man-band. His intricate melodies are deftly performed with nimble fingers on gently plucked guitar strings and they range from the softly melancholic to the beautifully inspiring. Songs such as his opening track Survive have such a pleasant and warming tone to them that it’s truly difficult not to get swept up in the moment. Survive is a real chanter of a song – easy to add to your air guitar repertoire and sing (or shout) along with in the car. The EP evens itself out with a mixture of these upbeat harmonies with gentle and tender songs such as Price to Pay – a haunting acoustic lullaby with a message that’s hard to ignore.
One of the things that really helps Gillespie’s music stand out from the crowd is his ability to craft the most touching and genuinely heartfelt lyrics. Songs such as Price to Pay offer you a message almost in the form of a question; as we are introduced to a nameless victim of society and the placement of the blame on their lives. It’s a stirring echo of every schoolchild who’s ever been bullied and the harsh realities they’ve faced. Other songs such as No Cause are a compassionate and emotive bare-all introduction to Gillespie himself. It’s a perfect introduction to an incredibly charismatic and open man which lends his music a pure honesty and clarity that’s difficult to find elsewhere.
Gillespie’s acoustic looping is impressive enough as it’s readily clear that he’s a phenomenal musician and bringing his poetic lyrics into the mix should be enough. But topping all of it off like icing on a cake is his astounding vocals. Gillespie ranges across a host of pitches, a tenderness in his voice that intermingles with his guitar chords to create a perfect harmony. His slightly smoky voice wavers and flits between a generous country-styled voice and a tone of gentle old-school folk sentiment. His range is put to the very best use on the EP and he uses his brief six tracks to showcase his considerable skill and introduce us to what he does best.
As an added bonus there is even an uncut and unplugged version of his track Survive at the end. It’s one of those remarkable tracks that almost demands to be the only thing in your mind – it’s the song you really need to plug into and just lay back and absorb. The soft chords echo in your mind for days and encourage you to truly appreciate his fine lyricism.
Before I Die is a wonderful CD that demands your full attention and there are no ifs, ands and buts – it needs to be added to the collection.
For more information on James Gillespie, check out his website here:
Review by Joe Knipe