Tim James With Very Special Guests Presents ‘The Special Guests’

Tim James calls his group Special Guests because its lineup can change from project to project. However, no matter who might be around him, James consistently sings heartfelt songs, like the eleven found on the appropriately titled, The Special Guests.

James many times sounds heartbroken while singing this set of songs. Perhaps no more so than during one titled “Undone.” On a track that begins with electric piano, before electric guitar chords take a turn, James sings these tragic opening lines: “We had sky high expectations as we said our vows/You let me down, you let me down.” In just a few short sentences, he sums up a disappointing marriage. It’s not poetic; it’s blunt and to the point. James knows he shouldn’t be verbose because what he is expressing is a simple, sad truth.

“Undone” certainly contrasts markedly with opener “Wunderkind.” This midtempo song, which has an open, echoey arrangement finds James singing the words, “I found my home” In this case, James sings about the warmth, beauty and grace of love. He vocalizes about many of the attributes missing from “Undone.” Sometimes, it’s the disappointments of life that help us see and better understand our victories. This is seemingly the case with juxtaposition of these two album recordings. Then with “Early Days,” James sings about experiencing “love at first sight,” which highlights the positives in a romance.

While relatively standard rock tracks mostly drive this album’s selections, it’s easy to appreciate the eastern sounding acoustic guitar that propels “Speak With Me.” It has the feel of one of the more acoustic Led Zeppelin songs. Many know Led Zeppelin for that band’s pioneering metal songs, but it also had a pronounced gentle side, too. James fills this one with plenty of soft string sounds that just sound so good. Speaking of eastern sounds, “Jeddi” begins with percussion sounds that will remind you of the music of India.

Although much of this album concerns itself with romantic issues – both good and bad – “House Full of Brothers” salutes friendship. Brothers can mean the brotherly love men can feel when around their male friends, but this song sounds as though it could also be about actual blood brothers. It’s a joyous ode to the staying power of friendship. The track’s arrangement incorporates a little touch of guitar jangle, which sounds especially nice.


Tim James writes and sings emotionally charged songs consistently on “The Special Guests.” Best of all, though, these are also quite good songs. One is left feeling like he put a lot of thought into the creation of these songs. It’s like when you know you have a big upcoming conversation, where you’ll need to choose your words wisely. Similarly, James selected his words smartly when writing these songs because he wanted to get his ideas just right. This album is relatively quiet, from start to finish, because James wants to make sure we hear all of his words. He put so much thought into them, and it shows.

-Dan MacIntosh