Tag Archives: Celebrate

James Durbin Celebrate Album Review

Photo credit: rarasfarm.com
James Durbin live in concert at Will’s Pub

James Durbin – Celebrate Album Review

At the beginning of the year, I was able to catch rising talent James Durbin in a cozy Orlando setting. He was in the midst of an intimate, stripped-down tour where he offered a promising glimpse of his forthcoming album, Celebrate.

Somehow over the ensuing months, I missed the album release, which hit the streets in late April, immediately debuting inside the Billboard 100.  Better late than never, I finally took it for a spin. The first time I heard these songs in the aforementioned live show, they were quite raw; basically just Durbin, his wonderful voice and an acoustic guitar. This time? Certainly not raw, but rather meticulously produced.

In an earlier interview, I asked Durbin about the more mainstream feel to the title track, and whether that’s what we would see on the album. “The whole record is composed of songs that are very hooky and catchy. It’s all fairly ‘mainstream,’ if that word even still holds value.” (Check out the full conversation here: James Durbin Interview). He nailed it, as the album is packed with nice pop hooks, and a slick well-produced sound.

There are a handful of radio ready tracks on this album, and a slew that should instantly appeal to his legion of American Idol fans. Listening, it really is a safe commercial approach, but after seeing Durbin play these stripped down, I was a bit disappointed that the album felt over-produced.

Simply put, I found the album was just a bit too clean. I missed some of the grit we saw on his debut album and that same passion that oozed out when he performed acoustically. I can’t blame him, and really have no idea whether this incarnation of Durbin is a better reflection of the artist he wants to become, but I’d prefer something a little “dirtier.”

In any event, it’s clear that Durbin is growing as a songwriter and stretching his wings as a musician, as he had ample time to create what he wanted. “The greatest advantage to having more time to make the record was that it gave me more time to write and craft the record itself. On the physical record I co-wrote 10 of the 11 tracks. That definitely wouldn’t have happened without having that solid, creative time span.”

The album kicks off with two strong offerings, the soaring rocker, “Children Under The Sun,” where we immediately witness the growth and broad range of Durbin’s already fantastic voice; and “Parachute,” the first single and a song just oozing with hit potential. It’s an addictive pop-rock anthem in waiting. From that point forward, it really is more of a pop album, but that takes nothing away from the quality of the songs.

For me, one of the highlights is the slick, bouncy “Fool For You,” It’s got a catchy sound and an addictive hook that just screams for Top 40 airplay. Other highlights include “Louder Than A Loaded Gun,” and the tender, touching ballad “Real Love,” where I finally get to hear a bit of that raw James Durbin I missed on most of the album.

It’s an excellent pop record, and if there’s any sense in this world, songs from the album will decorate the Top 40 playlists throughout the year. Fans of Idol will be pleased. Me? I’m still looking for the grit he left behind on the last tour.

Rock On!

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Related Links:
James Durbin Concert Review
James Durbin Interview


James Durbin Entertains Orlando

Photo credit: rarasfarm.com
James Durbin live in concert at Will’s Pub


James Durbin Acoustic Show Review

Three years ago, James Durbin exploded onto the American music scene as a captivating underdog on Season 10 of American Idol. During that whirlwind year, Durbin finished in the Top 4 and gained tremendous popularity, playing all of the late night talk shows, hitting all of the big arenas and churning out a quick album that peaked in the Top 10 of the album rock charts.

Since that breakthrough year, things have settled down a bit for the young rocker and he’s just wrapped up his second album, the soon to be released CELEBRATE. This time around, he took his time and put together a collection of songs that are more reflective of the musician he has become. He’s co-written all but one of the new songs and plays guitar on all of them, and on this night he clearly made them all his own.

Read our recent interview with James for some more of his thoughts: James Durbin chats with Cretin.

He’s eschewed the bigger rooms across the country for a chance to play toned down acoustic shows in intimate settings, such as the cozy Will’s Pub on this night. With a comfortable grey jacket and tight knit cap he unassumingly took to the stage with his two band mates and simply shared his music as if playing to a group of friends. He was joined on stage by long-time friend Jeremy Cross on percussion in what Durbin dubbed his “baby drum kit,” and Craiglist find Justin Kastner on bass. They were solid, if under-stated, but this show was all about Durbin.

The crowd of less than 100 was treated to a special evening.  Durbin interacted with the crowd often during the show and was comfortable and witty throughout. At one point, reflecting on his days as a Karaoke host, he offered, “tip your bartenders, don’t be a dick.” His most humorous interlude was talking about the troubles with his tour bus. The vehicle is driven by their tour manager Noah Brown has been affectionately nicknamed Noah’s Ark.

As affable as he was on stage, this tour is a spotlight on his musical talent. His guitar playing was solid all night, but truthfully was over-shadowed by his voice, which was simply spectacular.

Photo credit: rarasfarm.com
James Durbin live in concert at Will’s Pub

Early in the set, we had a chance to hear his new single “Parachute.” The song had a different feel performed acoustically, but it’s clear that it has hit potential.  He spent about half of his hour long set unaccompanied, and during this time poured his soul into the music and nailed every vocal. The majority of the tracks were from the new album, and as he acknowledged, will sound much different when the album comes out and we hear the full production version, but on this night, the stripped down approach was priceless.

Grab a copy of the new single on iTunes here: Parachute – James Durbin- Single

The title track off of “CELEBRATE” was a highlight. Driven by his tremendous vocal range, it was punctuated by a nice whistling finale. The highlight and biggest surprise of the night was when he reached deep into his past for an unexpected surprise. In our pre-show interview linked above, he had told me not to expect any Idol flashbacks, but the crowd was in for a nice surprise.  “I haven’t played this song in three years (since American Idol). I’m gonna try it, and if I fuck up ill just stop! Have a little faith.” He strummed a few bars looked up and offered “”I can do this; this will be magical, and then thrust into “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Fantastic stuff.

Other highlights included the crowd favorite, “May,” and the stunning vocals of “Higher Than Heaven” and “Love in Ruins,” as well as a creative version of “Fool For You,” with his own creative ‘tribute’ to Bruno Mars.   (If I bungled any of these song titles, let me know)

This tour is one of those rare opportunities to catch a rising star in an intimate, stripped down and honest setting, simply doing what they do best. If the tour heads through a city near you, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

By the way, I loved the fun and creative set by opener Kelley James which was highlighted by his freestyle spin on golf and weed. Great stuff in a set that was filled with highlights.

Rock On!

Editor: We will be posting show photos on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend and reviewing the new album as soon as it’s available, so Follow Us / Like Us to keep informed on this and all things rock…

James Durbin Talks About His Upcoming Tour

James Durbin Photo
James Durbin – Photo by LeAnn Mueller

James Durbin’s “Celebrate” Tour Comes to Florida

The Central Florida 2014 rock concert season is about to instantly ratchet up a few notches with heralded young rocker James Durbin tearing through Orlando and Jacksonville as part of his current National Tour.

The American Idol success story is touring in support of his forthcoming release,Celebrate, on a tour that promises to spotlight his continued growth as an artist and performer. Durbin took some time out of his tour schedule to share some thoughts on the album and the tour, including one from our Twitter Community.

RARA’s Farm: For your new album Celebrate, you had considerably more time to complete the release. What was the greatest advantage to having that time to prepare?
James Durbin: The greatest advantage to having more time to make the record was that it gave me more time to write and craft the record itself. On the physical record (not including bonus tracks) I co-wrote 10 of the 11 tracks. That definitely wouldn’t have happened without having that solid, creative time span.

RARA’s Farm:The first single “Parachute” is a pop anthem in the waiting, it possesses a bit more of a polished and mainstream feel than your earlier music, is that what we should expect throughout the album?
James Durbin: Yes and no. The whole record is composed of songs that are very hooky and catchy. It’s all fairly “mainstream” (if that word even still holds value). Like I said before, I had time on my side making Celebrate. Time to know and find out what worked and what didn’t.

RARA’s Farm:You have cited the influences of many diverse artists In your past, The Beatles and Paul McCartney seem to play a prominent role. Would you consider Paul your greatest influence as an artist?
James Durbin: Now that you mention it, I always find myself referring to The Beatles and Paul McCartney’s songwriting style. If you’re gonna look up to someone, might as well pick the greatest living legend, right? No one works for their entire life’s dream aiming for the middle.

RARA’s Farm:Which song off of Celebrate translates the best live, or is your favorite to perform live?
James Durbin: I really love performing “Parachute”. There’s nothing more important than loving your single because you’ll be playing it for the rest of your life. Whichever one it is. It sucks playing something over and over because you have to, but it’s a walk in the park when you listen to it like it’s your own theme song.

RARA’s Farm:Will fans from American Idol see any of the songs you performed on the show in your show setlist on this tour?
James Durbin: Probably not. But then again you never know. I like to perform “on the fly”. There’s so much liberty in being able to go off on some jam. Stray from the setlist ya know? I’m really loving that these days. We are musicians after all.

RARA’s Farm: You seem to wear your heart on your sleeve and are quite passionate when you perform. Which song touches your heart the most when you perform it these days?
James Durbin: “May” has been and always will be an emotional song to perform. Especially when I open my eyes, look into the audience, and see people crying.

RARA’s Farm:Could you tell us anything about the touring band?
James Durbin: It’s me on guitar the whole show. That’s a first. In addition I have my bassist Justin Kastner, who I found on Craigslist, no joke (Thanks Craig!), and one of my best friends Jeremy Cross on percussion. Jeremy was the first person to ever ask me if I wanted to join/start a band. It’s good to have friends with you on tour. Hallelujah!

And finally, from one of our Twitter followers:
Wendy Liu ‏@wendyucliu6h:  In one word, how would you describe your new album?
James Durbin: “CELEBRATE”, that’s why I named it that.

That pretty much says it all. Come out and CELEBRATE with RARA’s Farm as Durbin brings his show to Central Florida in the next week.  We’ll be at the show and providing our review and photos right here afterwards. Follow Us on Twitter and Like Us on Facebook for coverage of this show and everything rock music related in the Central Florida region.

Upcoming Area Shows
Wed. 1/15 – Will’s Pub, Orlando
Fri. 1/17 – Brewster’s Roc Bar, Jacksonville

Tix for both shows are available and at bargain prices! Tickets and a full concert listing are available here: James Durbin Tour Schedule

Rock On!