By Dusty Ray
James and the Devil is a band that knows how to write catchy tunes, and their atypical line-up is reminiscent of Blind Melon. With Altitude Sickness, the band proves their talent, but still falls short with a lack of variation throughout the album.
The instrumentation is tight, with powerful and distinct fiddle leading most of the tracks. This is contrasted against wah pedal-heavy guitar, and funky, danceable rhythms. The vocals are at times overwhelming, a bizarre mix of Jack Johnson and Fred Durst complete with quick rapping and breathy interludes that leave something to be desired.
Lyrically, there is not a lot going on here.Typical tropes about “taking it easy” and “having a good time” dumb down the talent of the band and strain the listener’s enjoyment. “Colorado Love” is one glaring example of this: It’s a variation on “California Love” with altered lyrics (“In the city, city of Denver, etc.”) and the cheesiness of it all is almost unbearable.
One of the strongest tracks is “Told You So,” with its staccato, almost metal quality. It stands out from the rest of the album and brings some diversity to the cut.
“Need a Fix” closes the album on an upbeat note. It opens with an extremely fast rap section that leads into a funky Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque romp.
Altitude Sickness is a well-produced, clean album, but there really is not anything new brought to the table. Its pop appeal is there, but the lengthy songs and repetitive beats strain its potential.