Review: Jack Foley
"I'M very much a person that writes from the heart,"
says suave British newcomer, Nate James. "It's very soul/funk
because my influences are Prince, Lenny and, of course, Raphael
With this in mind, Set The Tone is very much a debut
album that emulates many of his influences, as well as more contemporary
acts such as Jamiroquai and Craig David in places.
It's an extremely accomplished affair that exudes the suave style
that James seems to exude in all areas of his life.
Yet it occasionally struggles to sound different - emerging as
a fun but generic listen that's a little too easy to pin down.
Opening track, Said I'd Show You, is a good example
of this, emerging as an infectious slice of smooth summer soul
that sets the tempo well without really standing out.
James' vocals are extremely smooth and his lyrics reflect the
mantra he used while writing - 'they illustrate that I'm a guy
who likes to enjoy himself!'
Second track, The Message, feels like a grittier version
of Jamiroquai crossed with Stevie Wonder - no bad thing, but a
little too prone to obvious comparisons.
The lyrics are typically upbeat - 'got to get up and dance, can
you hear my message to the people' - and they're tailor-made to
generate a party spirit.
But as funky as things remain, there is a little something missing
to prevent them from appearing truly great.
The album picks up considerably with the arrival of second single,
Universal, which really grasps the classic party feel
of Stevie Wonder in a vibrant, feel-good manner.
It's one of several tracks that seem to pick themselves as favourites
and future singles.
Title track, Set The Tone, is another strong example
of James at his best, playing like a smooth groove R'n'B classic
that features a more serious/sultry side to the singer-songwriter.
While Funky Love is, like its title suggests, a genuinely
funky dance-floor filler.
Dawn Robinson appears on the rock-driven, I'll Decline,
which benefits from the vocal trade-off between the smooth style
of James, and the sassy style of his guest star, as well as some
raw guitar riffs.
While more female vocals help to lend a touch of class to the
ballad, Justify Me, which shows the tender side of the
artist while emulating the current trend for incorporating a gospel-style
It's just a shame that for all of the stylish values surrounding
the album, it doesn't quite seem adventurous enough to justify
the vibe surrounding James as an artist.
It's funky and breezy enough but it could benefit from a touch