James Dalton recently returned from Europe where he seems to spend most of his time these days. It's a shame that he's probably more respected over there than in his backyard (isn't that always the case?) because he is truly at the top of his game with this latest batch of songs.
His set started with mandolin in hand for the tunes "As I Am" followed by "Alafaya Mama" from the new CD.
"I wanted to make this album all about my emotions," said Dalton. "This is one of the more melancoly tunes. It's called 'Somewhere With You.'"
He's one of the few artists that can easily start a conversation with the audience or quickly break into a story. And with performances around the world, he's got a lot of material to work with. He joked about a tour of China he did where he was one of about three harmonica players in the entire city of Shanghai and was known simply as 'The Harmonica Guy.'
Before playing "All Across The Cities" - one of my favorite songs on the album - he said, "This is a love song for New York City. I guess that proves that even though he loves travelling, he's still an East Coast guy at heart.
At one point he apologized for his voice (which needed no apology) which he thought was affected by a "Soy Mickie" that was dropped into his shake instead of the Rice Milk he ordered. Being alergic to soy, he quickly noticed something was wrong about a half hour later. A woman in the audience actually gave a shout out for Rice Milk proving that you never can tell when a shout out is going to occur!
"This is one of my more personal tunes," he said before playing the brilliant "House That My Grandfather Built" in front of some family members who would be hearing the song for the very first time. It was James Dalton truly baring his soul on stage - the way he always does when he's on his game - and it was one of the best performances I've ever seen him do. I think travelling around the world and playing in front of so many different audiences - some who understood him and some who couldn't understand what he was singing due to language differences - has helped James grow as an artist in ways even he is just starting to understand.
Only a man like James Dalton could so easily blend stories from Scandavia into his act. Hell, only JPAT could say something like "I just got back from Finland" and actually mean it! Life certainly has been interesting for this boy from Bayhead, but he hasn't forgotten about the little things.
"I imploy you to go and order something from the cafe because as much as we all want this to be about the music we know it's really about them making money!" he said.
Several of the songs performed from the new CD had never been played live before. One song, "Senator's Square" needed the aid of his lyric book. It's a short song that is hauntingly beautiful and proves you don't need to write songs 4 or 5 minute long to create an entire story.
Closing out the show, he said. "This is a song about being from the Jersey Shore and falling in love with all of these North Jersey and New York City chicks. There's nothing too deep about it, it's just a happy song I guess," before launching into "Come Back To The Jersey Shore."
All in all James Dalton played 10 songs; nine originals and a wonderful cover of Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic" for Leo Zaccari of 90.5 The Night who is running the series. Highlights included "Somewhere With You", "All Across The Cities", "Make It Happen", "House That My Grandfather Built" and "The Dancer".
The Borders' Cafe makes a perfect setting for these acoustic shows and both Borders and WBJB should be commended for introducing a new place for local artists to perform at and reach audiences that may not have ever heard them play before. The series, which had its debut in April with Rick Barry, features one local musician each month. Future shows include Matt O'Ree in May and Val Emmich in July. All shows are free for the public.
For some photographs from the show go to: