This is not a knock on our rock, country, rap, folk, or jazz. Fort Worth is incredibly lucky that so many of its talented brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, enemies and other bartenders, funnel their creative energy toward the five food groups of popular music. Though there is no way of knowing (there probably is; I’m just too lazy), I can’t help but imagine that Fort Worth isn’t as rich in mixed-genre music as other cosmopolises. That’s right. Fort Worth is a cosmopolis. No? Name another American city with a Michelangelo painting. Or with the first Tadao Ando public building. Or with Van Cliburn’s tombstone. Thought so. As I was saying. In my mind, places like New York City, Paris, Los Angeles, London, Toronto, Austin, and Berlin overflow with the kind of tunes that reflect our fractured, postmodern age, one in which anything goes and the only thing that unites us is disconnection. Or something.
In Fort Worth, our tuneage is limited mostly to the five food groups, and that’s it. Except for Squanto and Tidals. And maybe Cleanup and Bummer Vacation. But that’s it. I understand that I am glamorizing the locales above, because I have been to Austin when South by Southwest was not going on. And realize that on any given non-SXSW weekend in the Live Music Capital of the World ®, those stages on which the mid-March multitudes have witnessed groundbreaking performances by Moby Grape, the Flaming Lips, Lady Gaga, and literally hundreds of other marquee underground/nontraditional acts are full of bullocks. (That’s Fort Worth-ese for “crap.”)
I also realize that I’m being a little ridiculous with categorizing here. I think I’m just fishing for an explanation for Reagan James, a.k.a. Adele Jr., a.k.a. future Hollywood star, a.k.a. The Kind of Artist Severely Lacking in Number in Fort Worth.
James isn’t your ordinary singer-songwriter. She went pretty deep on The Voice a couple of seasons ago, when she was a young teen and only a few months removed from her debut album, 2013’s Remedy. In early 2016, she put out her second album. Recorded at WaveLight Studios in Fort Worth and written by James, longtime producer Geoff Rockwell, and guitarist Aaron Anthony, Have a Nice Day is a delectable mix of inoffensive yet bright radio-friendly pop and seductive R&B –– saying “seductive” is a little weird, considering that while James clearly takes her InStyle-caliber physical appearance very seriously (she has more than 18,000 followers on Instagram, for obvious reasons), she won’t be able to vote until her next birthday. What you may notice right away is her sound’s expansiveness. The album’s eight tracks, sparsely arranged but deeply layered, with James’ smooth, syrupy, emotive voice always on top, always pristine, are wide open. You basically fall into them.
Unlike most local artists, Burleson’s James also hasn’t slaved away on the local club circuit –– just like two other Fort Worth acts to sign with major labels recently: The Unlikely Candidates and Leon Bridges. The breakout R&B star played around town a ton before being scooped up by Columbia Records but rarely with a band behind him, and the guys in TUC had age working against them: Before Atlantic Records came a-knockin’, they were too young to play most of the places filled by people who enjoy non-corporate music performances and a fine, frosty adult beverage or two. Or 12.
But James will make a rare appearance on a local stage at whose elevated lip the cognoscenti regularly gather, Magnolia Green Park, for 2016’s inaugural Friday on the Green, next Friday, April 8. Headlining a bill that also includes two quality veteran Fort Worth acts, ’60s pop throwbacks The Hendersons and don’t-call-them-AAA-stylists! the Cut Throat Finches, James will make you feel as if you’ve left Fort Worth and landed in the Big Apple circa the early aughts, when Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, and a few other mixed-genre, internationally flavored R&B divas were blowing up.
Your out-of-body experience will be a good thing. After the last note oozes from Reagan James’ lips, you can walk away and either hit the Boiled Owl for some drinks and good timin’ or drop by the Bearded Lady for some drinks and good eats (and possibly good timin’), or you can go home to your comfy bed. Which is in Fort Worth. Or maybe Burleson. Or maybe L.A. now.
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