Allan James: Doors To Somewhere

Ethereal, pained debut from this American one-man band.

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In the best troubador tradition, Allan James has been around a bit. At 15 he’d left his native US and moved to Iceland, where he ended up having his own guitar show on TV.

Back in the States to embark on a recording career, he settled in Washington DC and founded a band, Arc Of Light, before eventually electing to go solo. Northern Virginia is James’ current locale, his home studio offering a perfect base from which to write, produce and play everything on Doors To Somewhere, his first international release. He’s clearly a talented multi-instrumentalist, though while the songs are tastefully arranged and ably crafted, they ultimately lack any real sticking power. Soft electro-acoustics are the order of the day, folded into slightly mystical, midtempo songs about taking long journeys, presumably to find some deeper inner truths. Cue hackneyed lyrics about hearts being wrapped in chains and the like, James seemingly intent on straining to say something profound without ever quite getting there. It’s a shame, because there are occasional glimpses into what might’ve been, particularly the David Gilmour-ish title track, coloured with restrained piano and a gliding guitar solo.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.