Friday, 13 May 2016


James McCartney, is an engaging live entertainer — and an indie-rock artist whose new album, “The Blackberry Train,” is a superb journey full of reverby vocals and distorted guitar, at turns spacey or edgy, but melodic and listenable across its 11 tracks.
“People should feel inspired to write music if that’s what they want to do, and treat it like it’s 100 percent,” James said in a phone call in late April from London.

He will be relying on his passion when he performs solo, wielding an electric, acoustic or bass guitar, today at The Holland Project, 140 Vesta St. Two Reno bands open the 8 p.m. show: fuzz/alt-rock trio CRUSH ( and dream-pop/indie-rock band Fine Motor ( Tickets to the all-ages show are $12 at the door, $10 advance (
James is on the first week of a 43-date U.S. tour backing “The Blackberry Train,” his second full-length album, released on his own label, Maybenot. His musical influences include not only the Beatles but Neil Young, Nirvana, Hendrix, and lesser-known British bands such as Primal Scream. (

The leadoff track, “Too Hard,” is the sole poppy tune, with its Neil Young country-rock vibe and songsmithery reminiscent of Sir Paul (the refrain is an effortless earworm). A Fab Four callback is a guitar instrumental whose first half is played, with Kurt Cobain-like distortion, by Dhani Harrison (the late George’s son) and second half is a “My Sweet Lord”-ish run by James.

The next track — the spacey, urgent rocker “Unicorn” — launches the album on its grungy or dreamy psychedelic ride that persists until the spell lifts with the closer: the sweet, folky “Peace and Stillness.” The album was engineered by Steve Albini, who managed the mixing console for Nirvana’s “Nevermind.”
The gently flowing “Waterfall,” soothing and nostalgic with a pulsing bass, may be James’s favorite track, full of snapshot images of childhood with his mother, Linda, while he contributed guitar, drums and songwriting to two of his father’s albums, he only launched his own career at 30. Transcendental Meditation helps him maintain sobriety, and the apparent drug references on “The Blackberry Train” are false, he said.


“I didn’t even know it (blackberry train) was a hybrid strain of pot. It was a dream I had where there was this almost cartoonish train coming down a small desert mountain and the characters were big blackberries that were kind of purple and the train was black.”
There also are the trippy rocker, “Peyote Coyote” and the lyric, “Taking ecstasy by the fireplace,” in “Waterfall.” “‘Waterfall’ sums up that time after my mom died, me trying to stand on my own two feet and being independent,” James explained. “‘Peyote Coyote’ was more about promoting native Indians and indigenous peoples, trying to look out for them and encourage their culture.”

Reviews of his concerts have cited his charming shyness — in contrast to his chatty father’s supreme comfort on stage. Sir Paul continues playing to large audiences in his seventies. His advice to his progeny about performing live?
“To have fun, I think,” his son said.

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