The older I get, the more drawn I am to lyrics. If the story is interesting, that’s all it takes! I can enjoy a shredding solo for about 5 seconds before I’m reminded of a 10-year-old kid on YouTube I saw do it better. I’m not saying what they’re doing isn’t extremely difficult, but I’ve heard it before. I want to hear something I’ve never heard that takes me places I’ve never been while also being relatable. It’s a tall order, but I’ve found it in writers like James McMurtry, John Prine, and one of my favorites, James Dukenfield.
When I met James in 1998, he was a skinny mouth full of teeth that called himself “Jimmy” while reciting Wu-Tang lyrics. He ended up being the lead singer of one of my first bands, “What’s Pink?” We all learned a lot from that band. I learned how to not over drum the singer, and he learned how to sing on key (still working on that part myself).
After the break up of “What’s Pink?” I imagine he ate a lot of pizza with ranch dressing and started writing. He formed the band “New Sweden” in Wilmington, DE, and they took the scene by storm. I sat in on drums with them a couple of times when his brother broke his arm, and I can testify that the crowd hung on his every word because they were great. Not this makes me want to dance great, or this might get me laid great. This was that shit really happened great. After a 5-year run, New Sweden called it Calcutta. It was around this time, he started playing solo shows in Philadelphia and also sold me his 1950’s Harmony tenor guitar for $90, which I am forever grateful for.
James released a solo EP in April 2020 right after the world stopped and finally had time to listen. “Fancy Flowers” is a collection of songs that makes me feel like I’m reading a man’s diary. In a good way.
“Fancy Flowers” is a collection of songs that makes me feel like I’m reading a man’s diary. In a good way.
Our opener, “Please Don’t Microsleep,” takes on the insecurities of falling in love with someone that has to leave. Spoiler (they’re married now…I wasn’t invited)
Track 2 “Young Bette Davis” sounds like a breakup song with the past. Vintage tee dress and all. “Memories of you well, they haunt me like a ghost, and as we burn church wood, I release them into smoke. The path of least resistance is the path of a weary heart, and I’ve been lazy from the start.”
Next comes the title track, “Fancy Flowers.” It harkens back to his days at the University of Delaware. “Chapel Street sunk again.” This paints a picture of a flooded side street where the student housing would sway in the wind. It’s a slow groove of banjo, bass, and guitar with a piano that’s almost as jangly as the tambourine.30
Track 4, “Here,” tells of attending the big 4th of July ceremony in Philadelphia. If you’ve never been…. it’s tumultuous. “Juggalos talking over Pit Bull,” and It only gets worse from there until it doesn’t when he finds solace in his companion.
Track 5, “On and On,” talks about the experience of being in a relationship. The ups and downs. “I know you’re always right, but that won’t stop me from trying to fight with you on and on and on.” Cute
Our last track is “Orange Moon.” To be honest I’m not sure what it’s about, but it’s beautiful. Just a guitar and a guy “twisting his fingers to form a cup.”
Be on the lookout for his newest project, “The Grand Marais“. -Clinton
Clinton Hoffman is a songwriter and friend of The Kintners from the Adirondack Region of New York. He is the tenor guitar player and frontman for Brain Medicine, a lively Americana Bluegrass band.