JAMES J TURNER
James’s home town of Liverpool is a diverse musical melting pot, and this was a heady influence on James, who started playing guitar and singing from a ridiculously young age. His first gig was at the tender age of 9, largely playing rhythm and blues. He also wrote his own songs from an early age, and by his early teens most of the set he performed was self-penned. After leaving school at the age of 15 James began working at the Liverpool docks, but he continued to throw himself into his music, and played most evenings and weekends in the city.
When the gigs started to rack up James had to make a choice – so in his early twenties he chose the music and after quitting the day job he fronted several different line-ups including Lies all Lies, playing a rock'n'roll-meets-new-wave guitar style music. Later he fronted The Electric Morning and released records on the Liverpool indie label Probe Records. But not wanting to just be a local band, the Electric Morning toured with American bands such as the Rain Parade, True West, the Beat Farmers and The Long Riders, playing all around the UK and Europe. Both John Peel and Andy Kershaw played the Electric Morning records enthusiastically. James quickly attracted the interest of the UK music media. Kev Sampson in Melody Maker said "it's the singer that makes this lot special, with a manic stage presence and a huge Bono style voice".
After paying his dues on the road James decided to open a studio, which turned out to be the renowned Liverpool Hard City Studios. It was in Hard City that James recorded his debut solo album: The Believer that was finished and mastered in Abbey Road Studios in London (by Chris Blair, who had worked on “Abbey Road” with the Beatles).
The Believer was released to massively positive critical acclaim (Sean McGhee of Rock ‘n’ Reel said James “certainly makes an impression with the most immediate and accessible singer/songwriter sound I’ve heard in ages”) and singles released from the album garnered extensive national and European radio playlisting. Such was the interest generated that the album was selected by Virgin/BPI for their Best of British US Campaign, which distributed The Believer in Virgin shops throughout North America. James was the only male singer/songwriter selected for this campaign. The Believer has an Americana - Rootsy feel that the USA loved – the response was immense with all copies selling out.
From 2008 James started working on music that went even more back to his roots, inspired partly by the music he was listening to at the time which included the Incredible String Band, Dick Gaughan, Fairport Convention and Martin Carthy. The songs that James wrote at this time eventually became the album “How Could We Be Wrong?" For this album James used acoustic guitars, mandolin and fiddle, as well as a rhythm section and featured Henry Priestman on accordion, Mark Knight the “Mad Fiddler” on violin, Etienne Girard on bass, Paul Walsham on drums and Vicky Mutch on cello.
From the release of "How Could We Be Wrong?" in 2012 to date James has been developing and honing down his unique solo style; a huge voice and dextrous guitar playing provide the backbone to his passionate, carefully crafted songs. Also, in recent years James has deliberated to consciously follow a Druidic - Bardic path; he is a member of OBOD, who are the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. The music on James’s third solo album: "Spirit, Soul & a Handful of Mud", released in 2016, is therefore imbued with his empathy for the human struggle, complex spiritual landscapes, plus a deep concern for the environment. Also on this album are powerful and passionate vocal performances; characteristic James J Turner songs with strident lyrics, catchy melodies, anthemic choruses and strong hooks; plus first class musicianship from James (vocals / acoustic guitar / whistles / mandolin / shruti box), Vicky Mutch (cello), Amy Chalmers (fiddle /backing vocals), Etienne Girard (bass guitar) and Jay Hughes (drums / cajon).
Recently, James was delighted to be awarded the support of Arts Council England who funded a new 2023 album called "Future Meets the Past. This new album was developed around the theme of the Bardic Druid who reconnects people both to the natural world and the cultural and historical roots of our past. It features characteristic James J Turner songs with strident lyrics, catchy melodies, anthemic choruses and strong hooks, featuring a blend of traditional acoustic and contemporary electric instrumentation. James’s powerful voice and dextrous guitar playing on Martin D28 provide the backbone to these themed songs accompanied by fiddles from Neil McCartney (from Merry Hell), Amy Chalmers and Chris Haigh; Etienne Girard (upright & electric bass) and Dave Ormsby (drums). The tracks were all recorded as organically as possible with the bass and drums playing live together. The sound is instantly classic, strong and mature, firmly in the Folk-Rock genre but with much to appeal to fans of Americana music too.
For more information on the concept and work behind this Arts Council England Funded album please see the album page on this website here.