Erica Mah and James Lamb at The Railway ClubPhotos by Alex Ramon
There are many artists out there who just catch you with their words and melody, and when that does happen, I always make a note of them and follow up with what they do. It’s not everyday that someone captivates you with their beautiful songs, and for me, as an independent music reviewer, I always try my hardest to make sure they get the exposure they deserve. James Lamb is one of those musicians that just enchant me with his serene voice and heartfelt lyrics, and I’ve had the opportunity to watch him a few times, both with another local favourite of mine, Dan Mangan. I’ve spoken with Dan on countless occasions, and whenever we get on the topic of local Vancouver acts, he always mentions the passion and potential that James Lamb exudes with each and every song. Those are very strong words, and should not be taken lightly, especially coming from a tremendous artist such as Dan. So when James contacted me about coming out to a show at The Railway Club, I did not hesitate and happily accepted his invitation.
I speak very highly of James, so when I came out to watch him, I expected nothing but good things from the other acts as well. Erica Mah was the first to grace the stage on that beloved October night. She was born and raised in some small town in Northern British Columbia (how small I don’t know…), where she was classically trained in both piano and guitar. She’s travelled around the world, from Toronto to Mexico to Guatemala and back home to Vancouver. That’s about as much as I know about the girl (or woman…) because that’s pretty much what was written on her bio. But enough of her travels and her background, all we really care about is the here and now.
As she timidly approached the stage at The Railway Club, everyone in the small little room suddenly became silent. It’s not everyday you see a bar that quite, especially at a local show. But the crowd was very receptive and patient, listening closely and attentively as Erica used her fingers to mould the fake ivory up on stage. At first glance, she reminded me a lot of Serena Ryder, a favourite of mine, as well as Regina Spektor. She has one of those voices that command attention, and that’s exactly what she got when she sang each one of her songs. She evoked the emotions that could captivate warring nations, and produced some amazing songs that were perfect for the sit down atmosphere of the night. She is a multi-talented musician, switching from the guitar to the piano with ease, and at one point, she even took out her xylophone and played alongside it with her keyboard. Everyone seemed like they were in a trance, watching her every action as she moved and talked up on stage. Her set was short, maybe even half an hour, and she left people wanting more. I guess that’s what she wanted, because there is no doubt in my mind that I will be front and center at her next performance.
Well what can I say about Mr. Lamb that I haven’t already? Since the last time I saw him, he’s gone on various cross country tours that included various summer festivals. At the moment, he’s over in Toronto helping his good friend Dan Mangan record his new album. It’s great when talented musicians such as Dan and James get together because you know they’ll produce something not only beautiful but also memorable. After that recording process is over, he’ll be hibernating over in Montreal for the winter and begin the writing process for his own album. I’m really excited for this, because if his material now is any indication of what he’ll be doing in the future, expect big things from this curly haired boy (I mean man…).
He started the night off with a new song titled “Traditional Wives,” which had a beautiful melody and memorable lyrics. As usual, he was getting a very warm reception from the crowd. Erica did a great job warming up the audience, and when James continued with the night, he quenched the crowd’s hunger for more great music. His voice just soothes every bone in your body, and all problems just dissolve with every song he sings. He was putting on a finger picking clinic, and he made me want to pick up the guitar and start trying (emphasis on the trying…) to play and create. James inspires others to craft their own art, and his inviting personality on stage makes it easier for others to believe they can follow in his footsteps. He has a relaxed personality, and his crowd interaction is what sets him apart from his other folk artist counterparts. His story telling is something to admire, because he can connect with the crowd on a more personal level. He talked about his adventures on tour, more specifically about one all ages show he played in Sudbury. Apparently 8 year olds think he looks an awfully lot like Terry Fox. His humorous personality continued into his song “East Vanity,” where he sings about the residents on Main Street, and when his good friend Sarah Seanter (I think that’s how you spell her name, but correct me if I’m wrong) graced the stage alongside James, a new layer was formed alongside the already beautiful melodies. There were some beautiful harmonies between the two, and at one point they had a nice whistling solo. I don’t know how they do it, because every time I whistle, it’s just a high pitched squeak. They must have had some classical whistling training, because that’s the only explanation for their amazing whistling abilities. James ended the night on a high note, with a nice sing-a-long song called “Shot Down The Tracks” and it was a perfect ending to a perfect set.
For more information on Erica Mah and James Lamb, feel free to visit their website and myspace. They are both musicians who play with their hearts on their sleeves and inspire others to be creative, so if you’re in the mood for some peaceful melodies, be sure to look them up.