James Keen, vocalist/guitarist/frontman for international rock group Magazine Gap (who we’ve reviewed favorably before), took advantage of the pandemic, stretched himself musically, and crafted his latest solo release, Crossover. And from that inspired album comes “Show Me What You Got” – an acoustic-and-piano-led call to action that makes a driving, sturdy, heartily strummed statement. What makes it so utterly authentic, unique, and far above Keen’s acoustic rock contemporaries?
Let’s dig in.
Vocally, the comparison to Tracy Chapman is often made, and I do hear it – the wavering, compassion-filled vibrato that simultaneously expresses desperation and assuredness; it’s world-wise, but fresh, hopeful, and dexterous. And I also hear a touch of Live’s Ed Kowalczyk, but Keen’s voice is more natural, clearly delivered, and less an overbearing affect that tends to make lyrics incomprehensible.
Musically, we kick off with modern and darting digital voices (just in case you thought this song wasn’t made with contemporary audiences in mind). And from there, we hit the song’s foundation – gritty acoustic guitars, piano, bass, and drums. I also hear – I think – a subtle synth pad filling in the aural cracks and crevices during the pre-chorus.
And the chorus? A bullish challenge – “Show me what you got” – accented with those darting digital voices.
The bridge: Powerful; a key change, some tasteful electric guitar, and an emotional lift courtesy of that airy synth pad. And after a few bars of this urgency-filled divergence, the song returns, effortlessly, to the closing chorus.
James Keen is a powerful, unique vocalist who saturates every word in simultaneous sadness and jubilance. His band, Magazine Gap, already plays stages around the world, and I hope the same audiences – and several million more – tune in for such a meaningful solo offering. Great song, and best male vocal performance of the year (well, technically, so far this year). HIGHLY recommended.
BELOW: Listen to James Keen and check him out on Soundcloud, Instagram, Apple Music, and Facebook. Please support James Keen by visiting him on his website, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing his music. And, as always, thank you for supporting real music.
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Show Me What You Got Premieres 6/30/2023