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The thing that had always set apart the records of James Wayne from his competitors since his arrival on the scene was the material matched the unique nature of the artist himself in that both were best viewed through a cockeyed lens.


But the thing about them, singer and songs alike, was that in addition to standing out for their unique nature, they also stood out because they were good.

Here though is the first self-written song that could be called generic and Wayne seems determined to match that with a performance that rightly is referred to the same way.


Going To Storm
It’s almost impossible not to like James Wayne in some form or fashion.

His vocal tone is unlike any you’ve heard, a back of the throat croak that stays in key even as it pushes the limits of each note. His native intelligence as it relates to the material is always present and so even if the song’s perspective isn’t one that interests you, his commitment to doing it justice by adapting the right vocal perspective never wavers.

He can be upbeat and fun or he can sink down in the dumps but you never feel as if he’s not experiencing those emotions in the studio as the tapes roll and his quirky delivery means there’s always some surprise to be found.

Or almost always, for on Bad Weather Blues, while he’s certainly convincing in the role, he’s not his usual distinctive self.

Maybe we’ve gotten spoiled but when you get used to him delivering something just slightly off-center in all of his work, it’s disconcerting when he sticks to the middle lane like this. After all, we can be made to feel dejected by countless other singers across the spectrum, each one giving us the same basic feel that varies only by the sound of their voice itself, so why do we need him to provide us with the same thing we can get elsewhere?

Though his voice is as identifiable as ever here, we’ve come to count on James Wayne to give us something completely unexpected and the only thing unexpected about this record is that he’s not throwing us a single curveball along the way.


I Know I Can’t Feel No Better
Okay, so it looks as if we’re going to criticize this up and down, doesn’t it? That we’re going to pick apart each component and say how it could’ve been made better if they threw everything out and started over or something.

That’s not the case at all.

In fact, each of the components here fits very nicely within the Bad Weather Blues concept.

Obviously it’s a song leaning heavily into sadness (most people outside of Gene Kelly are bummed out when the sun isn’t shining) and so when you get downbeat horns leading into the vocals and hear James Wayne sounding like a kid whose weekend respite from school floated away with a two-day rainstorm everything about this seems entirely fitting.

The piano is there to keep the mood from becoming too maudlin but even that you could say reminds you of the pitter-pat of the raindrops on your window as you long to go outside so we can’t fault the arrangement for sticking to the playbook.

But it’s not weather in a literal sense that forms the basis of the song, but rather Wayne’s state of mind now that his baby has left him… a standard development in the life of a songwriter apparently as this is about the 967th side we’ve covered that deals with that subject.

Because it’s such a frequent topic though, you need to bring something new to the table to set it apart and that’s where we expect Wayne to deliver. Instead he is merely treading water (maybe literally if this monsoon doesn’t let up) by using so many weather related metaphors. While the lines themselves are crafted with some care there’s no real insight being offered beyond the obvious.

The horns are the one uplifting aspect of this, so to speak anyway, as the tenor gets a nice solo that manages to add textures to the mood and when he comes back into the picture Wayne gives us some descriptive lines that show his usual talent for painting a scene, so we’re not completely without sympathy here, but when you have a three minute record the company wants us to play again and again, there DOES have to be some more to it than that, whether musical, lyrical or in terms of his delivery.

This meets its stated objectives to depict his gloomy outlook realistically, but as with the weather all we need for that is to look out the window, or in this case look at the title and we get the picture just fine.


My Poor Heart Keeps Beating Thunder
The reasons Imperial had for signing James Wayne were certainly smart. He was a multi-talented artist who’d already scored one national hit and another big regional hit in New Orleans while recording for a slightly smaller label. Considering most of Imperial’s best artists were from New Orleans where they had a thriving studio operation, it made sense to bring Wayne into that scene and see if he couldn’t expand on his earlier success.

But whether it was his own creative well running a little dry, or Imperial’s efforts to make him more palatable to the mainstream rock fan across the country, his four sides cut for them were his weakest to date, one of which he didn’t even write himself and none of which had much of his personality shining through.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with Bad Weather Blues. It’s arguably the best of the lot and works well enough for what it tries to do aesthetically, but it falls short creatively which means it also wasn’t going to make the grade commercially either.

Why would it when you could find this sort of thing in the jukeboxes already by lots of artists on lots of labels. There was nothing altogether special or unique about it.

When it comes to an artist like James Wayne, it’s the uniqueness that is his best attribute and anything that toes the line stylistically to what’s already out there hardly seems to be worth the effort.


(Visit the Artist page of James Wayne for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)