James Wallace Livens Up Poet’s Crowd

What do you get when to mix a Nashville band and a Monday night at Cookeville’s Poet’s on the Square? Under normal circumstances, you get a spotty and less-than-enthused crowd of twenty-somethings. However, James Wallace and the Naked Light’s Monday evening show was a delightful exception that awakened a sleepy audience.

Phantom Farmer opened with soulful and smooth lyric-driven acoustic tunes and ended with an unexpected yowl. The solo project of Joel Mcanulty, also a Tennessee songwriter, did not disappoint the many who had gathered to hear rising talents, James Wallace and the Naked Light.

Currently touring as a quartet, James Wallace and the Naked Light began their journey in a room full of eager Cookevillians drinking in every word and chord. Alhough their recent album, “More Strange News from Another Star”, features a saxophone player and was seven members strong, it is safe to say that the set captured the essence of what makes their album appealing to a diverse group of listeners.

“Worst Things Have Happened” could be considered the defining track of the album. The video which featuring the band’s touring van can be described as a striking and eerie visual representation. It was released last week and can be viewed on vimeo.

While classified as indie-folk, this label doesn’t quite do their sound justice. One part storytelling and two parts instrumental prowess, “More Strange News from another Star” is a fine example of seasoned songwriting. They stay true to their Nashville roots with hints of gospel influence while employing the use of unexpected musical devices. For example, the band would sing into the receiver of a repurposed rotary telephone, which gave some of their songs an unexpected, nostalgic twist.

I often enjoy Nashville musicians, but many of them have a similar sound and keep simplistic lyrics. James Wallace’s lyrical style was anything but simple. What would begin soft and serene would end in a wild energetic frenzy from all members, jumping and howling the chorus. 

The highlight of the show was definitely when they played “Saved At The Bottom” from their first album, which was a rare treat as it is so infrequently played, several members were unsure of their parts in the song. This did not take away from the magic of the melody and front man Wallace’s half-sung, half spoken tale which spun together images of nature and misfortune.

Find their music at jameswallace.bandcamp.com where you can hear the new album. Check out their 2009 album titled “I Smile All Day I Smile All Night” or catch them on their ongoing tour and buy one of their records.

Tomorrow, James Wallace and the Naked Light are playing in Knoxville at Pilot Light. They will make their next appearance in their homebase Nashville at the Stone Fox with The Soil and the Sun.