Totally Biased Fan Review: Coming Home – James Van Cooper



A few years ago, I caught James at a few gigs in Tamworth. He was beautifully dressed, more like a man on a catwalk than a muso in a pub at a country music festival. Everything about him oozed class and style.  He was very young. He still is. When he was younger he was more into a kind of music that is as far from Peel Street and cows in a paddock as rain has been in recent times.

Then he met a bloke called Bill Chambers, probably one of 10 of the most influential people in Australian Country Music, and the rest, as they say, is history for this young singer/songwriter.

To describe James’ music is probably best to term it as Alt. Country. It is definitely country, there is no mistaking it as anything else. His songwriting is so mature for someone so young. His songs are thoughtful, tender and easy to listen to. There are a few surprises, with mixes of tempo and style  with a possible shower song nomination in the making with Midnight Love, an almost boppy number.

James is getting a lot of interest from pockets of the music community that would probably not always listen to country and that is a good thing, again, they are hearing that there is more to country music than one type.

His image is a bit different to others, he has a way of carrying himself that is not the norm with country music singers and his voice is not traditionally country….though his music has  very much a strong country vibe.

I think that the younger market will definitely be curious about this 21 year old. Older fans will appreciate the musicianship, the variety and the quality of the production of the songs. They will hear things in the music that are reminiscent of artists who were around long before James was even thought of . He is a bit of an old soul with a young head and heart. There is something very unique and exciting about an artist such as James Van Cooper. I was pleasantly surprised the first time that I heard him and this album just cements my faith in that thought.  I really love this album. It is full of golden moments.

Lights Don’t Shine reminds me of Donovan, one of my favourite singer/songwriters. It is my pick on an album full of songs that shine.


1. Passing Through

2. Younger Then

3. Coming Home

4. Midnight Love

5. Car Crash

6. Goodbye My Friends

7. Lights Don’t Shine

8. Don’t Say It’s Over

9. Demolition

10. Kew


Totally Biased Fan Review: Real Good Time – Judah Kelly


Like many fans who go to Tamworth year after year, I knew Judah Kelly long before Channel 9, Delta and The Voice exposed him to the millions. I knew him as a backing guitarist for a lot of artists, a guy who many believed in and brought him out for a solo number (and often an encore) at their gigs or they spotted him in the crowd and brought him up on the stage to sing and play a few numbers. He had a pure, soulful, powerful voice that wanted to be released. He sang like Vince Gill at times and Chris Stapleton at others.

It was not a surprise to many of us that Judah won The Voice. We all knew what he could do,  he just needed the opportunity. The Voice doesn’t always pick the songs that suit the singer….they tend to pick songs that show the range that a singer can sing, and there is no question that Judah can sing just about anything. Most commercial programmes, however, shy away from country music. This is usually because they don’t actually know how country music has evolved. There are 79 types, not just one or two. There are thousands of singer/songwriters in this country that are purveyors of those 79 types, not just 9 or 10 that they invite on to their programmes and onto commercial radio stations. What Judah and Lyn Bowtell did on The Voice was expose another side to themselves but they also showed people that there is a lot more to our genre than people think.

I don’t think that The Voice developed album was the best showcase for Judah. This album is. This is more Judah than the other one, and he has said this himself, I am only just repeating it. Judah mixes it up on this album, but it is country in all of its different guises. He is much more true to his roots here. His voice is the voice that we hear at Tamworth, the voice that people of all ages get up out of their seats for and applaud. This is the voice that we demand to hear again when he sings with some of the biggest artists in our country music family and the one that we know and love.

Judah can do his own gigs and albums now and the exposure that he has had due to a national tv show has come with pros and cons. The best thing that has happened out of it all is that he can do what us faithful have thought that he could do all along….he just needed someone in the spotlight to see that.

This collection of songs – a generous 13 in all, have been written by some big names and Judah even contributed a co-write himself.

I know that I am biased, but I think that the soulful, bluesy songs are Judah’s best, songs like I can’t think – which is probably my favourite on the album. I’ll come running has almost a 60’s feel to it. Tackling an Aussie classic, Tucker’s Daughter, was brave but a logical choice. And it is a damn near perfect recording. The fact that I am a huge Mossy fan makes that a big call.

Judah sings from the heart on this album. You get the feeling that he took his time with this one, considered the songs carefully and the arrangements are spot on. The songs fit Judah and Judah fits the songs. The last album felt a little rushed, even though it was in the hands of an amazing guy. I think that it had to be done that way, because of the way The Voice was structured, but this feels more like a labour of love.

Judah has served a fairly long apprenticeship….but all the great ones do. The music business is not an easy one. The bottom line, like in most careers is to do what you love and love what you do.

I really like the one song that Judah did some writing on. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and it is really heartfelt.

Kevin Bennett writes a couple on here and the whole album is put together with great care. This is Judah. This is what we all want to hear and play.



Track listing