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Reviewed by Jacquie Waters

Mitch James: Mitch James

Reviewed by Jacquie Waters

Mitch James: Mitch James

Sometimes the buzz around new talent can peter out once the rubber hits the road and the first album lands. Mitch James has had significant noise around him for a year or two, with his compelling ‘homeless artist-to-signed with Sony’ story capturing imaginations.

Released in May, 21 was actually the fourth single from this self-titled album debut. The concept of a 23-year old wanting to go back a full two years in time was compelling (4 million Spotify streams and counting) and it’s great to find that the whole album is similarly a cracker.

Ed Sheeran is the easy comparison to make – and he is a mentor for the young Kiwi singer/songwriter. Despite Sheeran’s appeal and massive success, the comparison risks doing James something of a disservice. James’ voice has more range than Sheeran’s, and there are a grit and a strength to his vocals matching that easy familiarity that’s deeply pleasing to the ear.

2016’s No Fixed Abode, which announced and introduced him, is now closing in on Sheeran-like 20 million Spotify plays. There’s plenty of commercial appeal in the likes of 21 and Can’t Help Myself to attract radio schedulers but this album hits a deeper and more profound sweet spot which makes it memorable.

Tracks like One More and Apologise record powerful life moments that show a huge amount of heart in his songwriting. Piano ballad No Getting Older and pop-rocker It Ain’t Helping (electric guitar/band) are tight and terrific.

The album was recorded by Simon Gooding at Roundhead Studios in Auckland. Production is exemplary, a real star turn in its own right courtesy of first-time producers Ji Fraser and Eli Paewai of Six60 fame.

Mitch James’ struggles to find a way to the top are well documented but judged by this brilliant debut that tough life experience is about to give way to spectacular international success.