By Gillian Gaar
The Complete EP Collection
Maybe Not/Engine Company
James McCartney has largely avoided the limelight, but finally comes out and reveals his musical skills on this two-CD release, which includes two EPs previously only available as digital downloads, along with bonus tracks.
Given his pedigree, it’s not surprising to learn he’s a multi-instrumentalist. Playing guitar, bass and piano, he’s practically a one-man band already. He’s also credited with playing mandolin; his father, Paul, doesn’t play on the release, but does co-produce. Vocally, McCartney’s voice has a rasp that makes everything he sings sound melancholy, even if it’s heartfelt song of love to his father (“I Love You Dad”), giving the songs a wistful feel.
“Available Light” is the livelier of the EPs, with ringing guitars and more buoyant melodies, such as on the driving “New York Times” — about the city, not the newspaper (there’s also a nice cover of Neil Young’s “Old Man”). The second EP, “Close At Hand,” is more contemplative, as seen in titles like “Jesus Be My Friend,” the kind of poignant plea you’d make in the dead of night. There’s a more acoustic flavor on this second disc, adding a sorrowful air to another heartfelt song to McCartney’s other parent (“Wings of a Lightest Weight,” inspired by his mother, Linda), though “Else and Else But Dead” has a decided modern edginess; another favorite is the lovely piano-based ballad, “Fallen Angel.” McCartney is off to a good start here.