‘Black Train’ EP from James Dunne - review
Oppdatert: 17. aug.
James Dunne channels the darker side of country, delivering a somewhat raw truth in his storytelling. His latest EP includes tracks such as 'Duty' and the EP's namesake 'Black Train' (both previously reviewed separately); however the EP includes a couple of additional songs which I shall discuss and review in my own usual style, these include 'Righteous Man', 'Haven't Killed Me Yet' and '6000 days'.
James' sound and style seek redemption and forgiveness, meaning that it perfectly fits the Outlaw Country artist that many describe his music as.
'Haven't Killed Him Yet'
"This is about giving everything to someone and being treated badly and even though you want to move on they won’t allow it to be easy. The end of it is despite it all you can find something that makes it better"
"Well it's safe to say, that I was over you. The second I was out that door. Now you've made your bed, but instead of lying in it, you'd rather sleep on the dirty floor."
A clear reference to being able to move on promptly, and separating yourself from such scenarios, and such people. The making your bed reference represents the choices others have made to keep you, or not in this instance. Sleeping on the dirty floor, is perhaps considered to be festering in your emotions and debriefing yourself of the events that have happened.
"The kindness I possess, now there ain't much of it left, my heart is turned to stone. The things that you have done, have sent me on the run."
This lyric is powerful as it details the good in us all eventually gets ground down and we almost become numb and desensitised to the bad things in life; when we realise this, we want to break away as quickly as possible to prevent further harm.
"You put the noose around my neck but you haven't killed me yet."
Perhaps referencing the controlling nature and how it grinds the spirit down. Equally it could be suggested that it's referencing suicide, given that you've given everything to someone who you thought loved you equally, when in fact they were driving you closer to your grave. It has been said that for many suicide is the only release from events such as this, the only way they feel they can escape. If this is something familiar to you, rest assured it's not the only way. There are people who care about you, who want to lift you up, and not bring you down.
"There's one thing I should mention, you'd better seek redemption, for all your evil ways. Now I'm gonna sit here, because the work is cruel and bitter, and that ain't gonna change. The things that you have done, have sent me on the run."
This verse, personally is said almost from the perspective of the moral high ground, and from someone who has perhaps travelled a similar path previously. Sitting there and watching nothing change is perhaps referencing the difficulty we all find change. Our mentality for change is that 'the work is cruel and bitter', however we must remember that nothing worth having is ever easy; we have to constantly work at life, otherwise we risk becoming bitter and cynical to the world.
"One thing you’ll notice is I like a good metaphor, it can mean one thing to me but something different to someone else and that’s the beauty of it. This song to me is about looking back to where I came from and where I’m going before it’s time to ‘check out’ the second verse is about me Pursuing music after all I tried before."
This song has a very reflective narrative, yet one of hope and positivity.
I find the lyric "well I got to thinking, it's time for a beer, that's when my mind gets to work and at its most clear" very juxtaposing because usually beer is associated with becoming inebriated and not thinking clearly, yet in this instance it's proved to provide clarity and in some respects, inspiration.
"Been on the road now for 6000 days, wondering if all this hard work is worth all the pain."
It's clear that the journey of a musician isn't always smooth, but isn't this synonymous with life in general. It's what makes us who we are, building grit and resilience from treading the path less trodden.
James details "you only need two things in life, a guitar and a girl." What I perceive James to be referencing here is needing someone to love, and a medium in which to express it. This is very important, if you look at the lockdowns we all faced, we became isolated, when in fact are quite sociable beings. Many found ways to acquire a new hobby or past time during these restrictions (perhaps singing, playing or songwriting); it is these activities that can help us express ourselves with others and with ourselves. The lyric is also perhaps a quirky reference to the quote from Harlan Howard of "All you need to write a country song is three chords and the truth."
"Tried my hand at most things and I left it all behind. There's another new calling that I'll go out and find. Try to do it right, and I'll give it my all. When that judgement day comes, I'll answer that call."
The verse vividly depicts someone either with no staying power, no commitment, or that of someone so focused on what they want, they keep doing different things until they find their 'new calling' or something that provides clarity and inspiration. Reference to judgement day, is perhaps meaning that we'll know it when we feel it.
"Riding down that highway I hear that engine moan, the past in my mirrors shows it's hard to move on. The memories that I cling to, the dreams that were due, giving all my soul away to the ones who weren't true."
A great contrasting image, comparing us humans to motor vehicles, yet it hammers the point, in which the engine moaning is embodied by our sighs of frustration at lack of progress and development amongst other things. 'The past in my mirrors show it's hard to move on' suggests that James is well grounded and is all to aware of troubling times. This also demonstrates an inability to process past events, and equally an inability to be fully present in life; what I mean by this is that we're so worried about the past (thing in never fades into the horizon, and remains seemingly ever present. With great counselling and reflection, we may find that the 'past in the mirros' is baggage and trauma not yet dealt with.
"This is a redemption song not a love song all though it has elements of that. It’s about hurting someone you care about and despite all that they still see the good in you and take you as you are."
"It seems so easy then to be an outlaw. But trying to be an honest kind and righteous man. I spent some time out in the sand among my brothers"
Personally, this opening verse holds a religious reference, the outlaw being the devil, and righteous man being the angellic figure. Perhaps there's a point to it being easier to being an outlaw, after all the expression is 'cruel to be kind'. The imagery of being 'among my brothers' in the sand paints a very sombre yet invoking message. One that reflects, when I'm gone, how do I want to be remembered?
"I often look back there as fondly as I can. I came back home to what I thought might be heaven, but turns out to be a darker side of hell. Then I met you, out on that railroad, and you took away the pain I feel inside."
Clearly a reflective verse, it details how things have changed, or perceived to have been changed. Again with the religious references (heaven and hell) but is also considered to referencing the promised land, and how it should be greener on the other side whereas it's actually worse than expected 'turns out to be a darker side of hell'. Reference to the railroad, could perhaps suggest suicidal thoughts or tendencies as he goes on to mention "and you took away the pain I feel inside." It could be said that he's meeting himself and only in that moment can he realise his actions, or equally he could be meeting his saviour, or the Lord.
The 'Black Train' EP is best summised as being deep, with themes of redemption running throughout. It makes one ponder and reflect on our lives. How we cope with ourselves, our feelings and emotions. In the current modern world of social media it's hard to perhaps accept ourselves, however this music helps demonstrate that it is still a very relevant conversation we need to have, both ourselves and others.
The EP was released 20th May 2023, and is available to download and stream now. Pay attention to James' social media to keep you informed on where he's performing this Summer!