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Some artists are destined to be underrated, overlooked and forgotten for reasons that aren’t always clear.

It could be they came along at a time when there was simply too many big stars for them to be noticed much, or it might be that their style wasn’t dynamic enough when compared to their peers.

But James Wayne scored a big hit already and while he may not have been dynamic he was distinctive and sometimes that is just as important when it comes to being recognized.

Yet here he is coming off a one-two punch of that #2 national hit and his follow-up record which would become his most enduring song, and it’s hardly news at all. In fact, it seems a lot longer than a few months since we last heard from him and I’ll be damned if I know why.


Tear Your Playhouse Down
The most obvious excuse for his long term career neglect probably centers around his quirky pinched nasal tone and laconic off-beat delivery… both instantly identifiable as James Wayne (he’s dropped the “s” off the end of his last name now after his first couple of sides) but both well outside the dominant traits found in most rock singers of the time.

Truthfully that should make him stand out, especially since his songwriting skills ensure that his records are always interesting beyond just the vocal and instrumental arrangements.

In fact, with three singles to his name, five of the six sides have landed in our admittedly subjective green numbers and while I’m Goin’ To Tell Your Mother won’t continue that streak of above average efforts, it’s hardly anything to be embarrassed by either.

It tells an interesting story that takes its time to unfold and puts Wayne’s idiosyncratic vocals front and center and while the instrumental support is hit and miss when it comes to technical precision, it’s working hard to fill the track with intriguing sound combinations.

So what’s the problem you ask?

Well, that’s what the review is for… the devil is in the details.


Be With Someone Else
Maybe the issue with this song is that it’s drawing some of its qualities from another genre. The structure, his dejected state of mind, the downcast mood in general all conjure up a blues record, even if his vocal textures and quirky little tics he added to his singing would be out of place there and with a horn-heavy band it only doubled down on him belonging elsewhere… like rock ‘n’ roll.

By the title alone you get a sense of his persona here… a frustrated somewhat meek guy who is trying to hold on to his woman by essentially threatening blackmail by telling her I’m Goin’ To Tell Your Mother because he feels she fears her mother’s scolding more than his own reaction to her bad behavior.

It’s a premise that begs for comedy rather than depression but while a few of the lines are leaning in that direction most of the humorous images come from that odd vocal tone which makes him sound piqued and indignant over her cheating on him rather than mournful or angry.

While that definitely makes it easier to listen to, essentially we’re the ones projecting our images of the situation onto the story rather than having him lay it out for us in more vibrant terms. Because of this we’re interested in the plot details, but not riveted by it.

The music is a mixed bag as well. The dry crackling drums add an emphatic kick to the track and the slightly drunk horns which are forever on the verge of wandering off-key before pulling it together, create a nice vibe but they also sound a good five years out of date. The piano is the other prominent instrument and it’s here that the song fails to really stand out, playing jittery parts without much drive or or focus.

All of it sounds okay, but rather indistinct and with the slow lurching pace and lack of any fireworks it’s a record that exists rather than lives. In other words while it’s playing you might not tune it out, but after it’s done you probably won’t remember much about it.


If You Don’t Give Me Consolation
It’s patently unfair to justify the historical neglect of James Wayne based on one fairly modest side amidst a bevy of more impressive cuts, yet it does tend to show that despite those stronger entries in his catalog, Wayne continually had to overcome his weaknesses each time out, rather than have those weaknesses become strengths through the image he projected.

Maybe a good comparison to make is with a public speaker (be it politician, a newscaster, sportscaster, lecturer), whose colorful style and commanding presence allowed them to appear more effective than those who were more informative but failed to pull in those listening.

I’m Goin’ To Tell Your Mother is indicative of that potential problem for James Wayne.

With a rote story for once, he doesn’t have the other attributes to make up for it and grab your attention and when the band similarly fails to make much of an impression it’s hard to do much more than shrug at the results.


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