At Longview Farm is a release thirty seven years in the making. Originally recorded in 1979, Jemima James’ debut album never saw the light of day until Team Love Records, while courting her son for his own music, realized the quality and potential of this release and decided to finally give it and Jemima James her long-deferred day in the sun. The ten song collection has a strong folk music slant, but James defers to the style of the times and crafts some first class folk rock cuts among the ten songs here. Blues and country music influences are strong on the release as well. Her lyrical content has a distinctly narrative bent, but she’s equally adept at culling inspiration from a wide command of the genre’s tropes and traditions as well as delivering strictly impressionistic or character driven content. Even with what she intended to be her first album, James comes on like a fully-rounded artistic force and never sounds like someone struggling with artistic confidence.
The opener “Sensible Shoes” will surprise many straight out of the gate. It is a relatively audacious move to kick off what seems to be a folk album with a song like this. There are a number of quasi-classical touches augmenting James’ essentially straightforward arrangement, but the song never sounds too cluttered or incongruous. “Havana Cigar” is certainly a much brisker effort than the opener and has a more conventional thrust. It has a slowly evolving melody and a deliberate pace that helps the song unfold with an understated dramatic air. “Easy Come, Easy Go” is one of At Longview Farm’s most commercial moments, then and now, and is a straight mid-tempo folk rocker with a relaxed gait and a variety of audience pleasing changes. James’ vocal is one of the song’s highlights because of how well she projects confidence without ever having to push her voice in any overt way.
Her country and blues music influences rise to the surface on “Book Me Back In Your Dream”. The longing in her vocal is an excellent match for the steel guitar and harmonica lines running through the song. It’s one of the album’s finest and, even if experienced listeners have heard similar sorts of songs before, most individual achievements. Tasteful folk rock is back on the platter for the song “One More Rodeo” and its mid-tempo shuffle is given added distinction thanks to the on point drumming propelling it, and so many other tracks here, forward to its inevitable conclusion./ Perhaps the album’s finest overall achievement, “Jackson County” draws deeply from the traditions of Americana music while still retaining a strong storytelling aspect that belongs to James alone. Her phrasing takes the needed time for listeners to absorb the specific details, but there’s enough generalities in the lyric to allow its potential audience a chance for arriving at their own interpretations. The aforementioned tracks are among the best of a great album that skirts around any filler and, instead, delivers ten wonderfully complete and touching performances. At Longview Farm, over thirty years removed from its initial recording, still stands up as a vibrant work of art rather than some artifact from an earlier time.