In walks Stephie James, her music like a smoky, dimly lit back alley bar - standing as a sultry embodiment of the past, but also as a reflection of the current cultural climate and the blooming resolve of the city from which she hails. Embracing the grittiness of yesteryear’s garage rock productions and also the bittersweet timelessness of artists like Amy Winehouse and Roy Orbison, this is unmistakably the music of countless romantic fantasies and of widescreen Lynchian aura. Without compromising an ounce of style, Stephie James has managed to not only craft an EP of beautiful, heart-on-its-sleeve classic melodies, but also imbue her music with the same sense of mystery and intrigue that makes the best Henry Mancini score somehow elevated and torrid.
While James’s has yet to become a household name, her credits leading up to this release would make even the most seasoned musicians gulp dryly in jealousy: touring with Anita Baker and Nikki Lane, engineering for Dan Auerbach and Buddy Miller, sessions John Bettis (songwriter for Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and The Carpenters, amongst others) and landing sync in Michael Bolton’s recent documentary, to name a few.
After a career zigzagging in between the crevices of others’ careers, all the while building a body of work and experiences of her own, Stephie James finally decided to step into the spotlight with a solo project by working with Andrija Tokic, who earned acclaim for producing Alabama Shakes groundbreaking first album.
Photo by Shervin Lainez
Her latest EP, "These Days", itself is a perfect distillation of the best elements Detroit rock has had to offer over the last two decades: timeless leather-cool, thanks to the resurgence of Iggy Pop and the omnipresence of Jack White- and, above all else, great songwriting. From the Americana rock churn of EP opener, “These Days,” the album puts your expectations on the backfoot immediately: one part Phil Spector crooner and one part howling-for-blood rock as James snidely intones “The tide is turning, but some things never change.” Only three songs later, the album closes its five track suite with “West of Jaurez,” a lush string filled ballad.
James’ credits ultimately stand as a dizzying fever dream, the type of opportunities only the luckiest are afforded and only the most capable and talented can maintain. A culmination of her life up until this point and undoubtedly the beginning of a rewarding career, James is not content to let this EP be the last redolent audiences will hear from her. For now though, Stephie James paradoxically gives us exactly what we want: enough to leave us yearning for more.
"Dark and rootsy, James is a venerable front woman to what becomes a garage rock-fueled jam, offering plenty of room to sink into its dusky, hypnotic vibe." - News Break
"There’s a fiery vibrancy emanating off the five sleek tracks on this new EP—smoky/surfy guitars, swooning-pulse rhythms, and that perfect amount of syrupy reverb so as to evoke a sense of midnight desert road trips. It’s a very cinematic sounding batch of rock songs, easily accommodating imagined visuals of a movie you can see inside your head while you’re listening, all the while James’ lead vocals can soar, slither, and saunter, as they tap into blue-eyed soul and dusty Americana." - Ideas Adrift Blog
"Stephie James paradoxically gives us exactly what we want: enough to leave us yearning for more."
- MNPR Magazine
"...oozes with sentiment and is universally relatable." - BTRtoday
"Stephie James opened the show with some no frills, ass-kicking rock and roll. A little bit Roy Orbison, a little bit Billie Holiday, and a little bit something entirely her own, Ms. James and Co. belt out a set of solid tunes." - Audio-Love (formerly humans of Nashville)
...smoky arrangement with a punctuating accent to the early Nashville scene where Orbison, Patsy and Hank charmed both radio and The Opry. While James clearly pays homage to her influences, she wraps it with her own identifiable charm and seductive vocals, making her a worthy newcomer to Americana."
- Glide Magazine