James Cruickshank, acclaimed guitarist and keyboardist for the Cruel Sea

James Cruickshank, acclaimed guitarist and keyboardist for the Cruel Sea, releases his third solo album, Note To Self, through Mullumbimby’s Vitamin records.

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Note to Self

James Cruickshank, acclaimed guitarist and keyboardist for the Cruel Sea, releases his third solo album, Note To Self, through Mullumbimby’s Vitamin Records.

Flashes of Sam Cooke, David Bowie, Tom Waits and Beefheart reveal in the swinging gait and crooked instrumental passages of a moody serenade through Cruickshank’s yellowed back pages. Tinkering with strings and keys, swamp jazz and electronic propulsion, these meditations on maturing in a Peter Pan era could have been recorded in a time capsule, but the production, resolutely 21st century, lands it safely in a contemporary quarter.

Songs such as ‘Blue Falcon’, ‘Invisible Tattoo’ and  ‘Teenage Voodoo Doll’ extol Cruickshank’s penchant for pop culture, dipped in muddy rust and sprinkled with lime juice and tobacco. Their narration ebbs artfully, veering between the internalised rasp of ‘Chrome Wings’, and a soaring cover of the Beatles ‘Within You, Without You’ that offsets the charm of Cruickshank's rich contralto.

About to embark on a short tour through Australia, Cruickshank returns soon to Europe, where recent sorties with Mick Harvey of the Bad Seeds, Nick Barker and the Kill Devil Hills have carved Cruickshank-size niches.

James on stage

“I have a career there,” he mutters, astonished at his own temerity. But the oblique performances from touring his last album, Hello Human, produced gushing accolades. Matt O'Neill from Brisbanes Beat Mag proclaimed him ‘genius’ & 'an effortlessly entertaining stage performer' – his performances prompting invitations to return to a number of French festivals this summer.

Working in isolation on his beloved far north coast of NSW (his albums are self-produced), Cruickshank has created an idiosyncratic career as bohemian bard-auteur, a kind of latter-day hillbilly beat poet – the Serge Gainsbourg of the bush. The eight-track CD, Note To Self, seems certain to claim discerning ears this winter.

NOTE TO SELF to be released mid April