The name rings a bell doesn’t it? No, this isn’t a misunderstood teenager without a cause, rather a talented musician armed with a guitar, a few hundred songs and melodies that will make you melt. James Deane expresses that rare combination of alt-country and British tradition - both grounded to our beloved Kingdom and enthralled with the dust and thunder of his Nashville cousins.
With evocative, poetic lyrics and guitar lines plucked from a haunted pre-war guitar, ‘Diamonds & Hearts’ is his debut full length album. It’s a beautiful collection of the songs dearest to him.
Influenced by the honest song craft of Neil Young, John Martyn and Jackson Browne, James’ musical appeal spans generations. From the shimmering, Tom Petty-esque opener and title track “Diamonds
& Hearts”, through the confessional closer “Strange Emotion”, James somehow covers all the bases. Heartened harmonies, characteristic country riffs and encouraging lyrics span both soulful ballads and rock ‘n’ roll beats.
The album will console any listeners’ craving for catharsis while James’ presence offers warmth and gentility. So forget that film star guy. Oh, you already had.
"On his debut album Diamonds & Hearts, James Deane demonstrates his remarkable abilities as an arranger. The music is simply beautiful, and his masterful way of delivering it adds heaps of warmth and intensity. It seems clear that he is an accomplished live performer, as his vocals and guitar work are crisp and conﬁdent in a way that is reminiscent of some of John Gorka’s work. The quality of the arrangement on Diamonds & Hearts cannot be overstated." - For Folk's Sake
"It’s funny how the word Country is often, on this side of the Atlantic, to be a term greeted with some form of mild derision. Stick the preﬁx “alt” in front of it and it somehow, probably due to artists such as Steve Earle and Ryan Adams, gains lashings of credibility. Well, alt can mean many things to many people and whilst the aforementioned artists
have often taken the genre in an edgy, darker and rockier direction, James Deane heads out for more soulful and poppier territory.
At it’s punchiest it evokes, the likes of Tom Petty and the even the simple and forceful directness of Creedence Clearwater Revival; Passing of Time and the title track tick certainly all the country rock boxes and Nobody Knows You Like I Do will convince you that it’s a timeless blues standard. But Diamonds and Hearts real selling point lies in the soulfulness that exudes from the laid back tracks that ﬂavour most of the album.
I Surrender is the pure distillation of romance made song and highlights the poetic nature that Deane injects into his lyrics and musically these songs sound like they should be oozing out of a beaten up radio in a late night truck stop in a scene from a classic American road movie, just on the edge of hearing, unimposing yet completely dominating the picture.
That said, thankfully, although there is a strong Americana feel to the album, it retains a quintessential Englishness, you often feel the ghost of John Martyn looming large over the proceedings and stopping the music trying too hard to become something it isn’t. In the same way that you don’t have to be from Chicago to play the blues, James Deane’s debut album proves that you don’t have to live in a trailer in Tennessee to be able to play country." - Green Man Music
"James Deane’s début album Diamonds and Hearts, successfully navigates a path between influence and imitation. American influence abounds but this is grounded by a very British slant that shows his heritage. There is not a dull moment here, and for every slower song or ballad like Midnight train or Seventeen, there’s a more upbeat song like Diamonds and Hearts or Dreamed You Were Home.
Seventeen shows a certain innocence and naivety, and is very much folk, while some of the more ‘rocky’ numbers would feel at home on larger stages. In fact, to ears admittedly untrained in the ways of country, there is not a weak link on this album. The soulful tone on Unwritten Song, following so closely behind, the folky Seventeen and uptempo album opener Diamonds and Hearts is indicative of the range of the album. Strange Emotion, The Passing of Time and I Surrender are also highlights. Strange Emotion in particular shows that James Deane has a lot of potential.
Lyrically, it did feel contrived at times, or at least made you wonder if this is the only thing he can write about, but by and large its done in such a way that you can’t help but be won over by it. The album doesn’t feel unique, but it’s good enough that you don’t really mind. The guitar work is excellent throughout, taking in various acoustic and electric styles and really shows a high level of ability and feel. What could simply sound like someone trying to copy men like Neil Young, John Martyn and Jackson Browne is good music that isn’t simply its influences.
Beautiful, poetic, emotive, these are a few of the words that are at home in a sentence describing a supremely confident effort for what is a début record. I truly did not know what to expect when this fell through my letterbox; as is probably clear, I am no aficionado of Country music of any sort. Usually when I’m invited to listen to a singer song writer my heart sinks because the material will sound the same; the riffs, the melody lines, everything (except the lyrics of course). Not so with Diamonds and Hearts, from the get-go my attention was held, and through some wonderful arrangements and a great voice I was transported through a beautiful selection of music. Country with some blues, rock and soul not thrown in but placed with precision and feel. If you are new to the genre then your preconceptions will be challenged, if you’re an old hand, then you will
love this." - Electronic Farmyard