The first time I heard James Bay, I was in line for beer at Irving Plaza and was sold on his talents almost instantly. The 23-year-old British singer songwriter from a town called Hitchin had us all transfixed, sipping our tall boys and wishing we had known about him sooner. This was the first of the two sold-out Hozier shows at Irving Plaza, of which Bay was the opener. In a packed room teeming with “Take Me To Church” anticipation, he certainly held his own. There is no doubt he is a modern performer, but every inch of him is saturated with old folk and soulfulness—all the way to his funky hat. He finished his set with “Hold Back The River,” which is the title track of his third EP, due out November 24th on Republic Records.

“Hold Back the River” starts off understated, unhurried and warm. The charm builds to what can only be described as an infectious chorus. Not unlike his presence, his lyrics are often unpretentious and affecting. The other two new songs on the EP, “Sparks” and “Wait In Line,” are sweet reminders of just that. It should also be mentioned that James Bay is a great guitar player. While the instrumentation on this EP is spot on, he is often at his best when it is just him and his guitar—which is only a testament to his raw talent. The final track on the EP is very smartly a live version of “Hold Back the River,” and serves to remind us that he is truly the real thing.

This is just the beginning for James Bay. Despite already opening for The Rolling Stones in 2013 at Hyde Park, it’s clear he has a lot more to do. Hopefully this EP leads to a full-length album soon.

Article by: Lila Zwonitzer

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