Eliot Bronson is a Baltimore-born singer-songwriter and Atlanta transplant. His first album in 2014 earned him comparisons to Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams, and none other than Bob Dylan. His new record is called “James,” which is a play on the eponymous album title.
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“James is my middle name, it’s my dad’s middle name, I mention the King James Bible because we grew up Pentecostal,” Bronson says. “I tend to write a lot about identity and the middle name is such a weird thing. Like, I’ve got this name, but nobody calls me ‘James,’ but we all have these sides to ourselves that we keep hidden or we don’t show everybody.”
The album is full of moody songs with impressionistic lyrics, like “The Mountain,” with its lines about “peeling the gold off of the clouds.” One standout track is “Rough Ride,” the lone tune that addresses current events, namely the death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody in Baltimore in 2015.
“I don’t think of a song like that as ‘hey, I need to take a certain stand on an issue,’” Bronson says. “This happened in my hometown, it was tragic. And I wrote it just the way I would write a song about a breakup—it was something that affected me and made me think, and was sad and had lots of sides to it.”
“I was also thinking about some of my favorite Dylan songs like ‘Hurricane,’” Bronson says, referring to Dylan’s song about the imprisonment of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. “I really love how he lays out that story almost journalistically. And so I kinda did set myself that challenge, like ‘could I do that?’”
While Bronson may not be casting himself in the role of a folkie or a protest singer, he says that he fell in love at an early age with the magic of what lyrics and a good melody can do.
“You’re hit with this sound and all of a sudden I’m feeling something that I wasn’t feeling a minute ago,” he says. “I always was drawn to that.”
Eliot Bronson celebrates his album release with a pair of shows at the Foundry in Athens on Thursday and at Eddie’s Attic on Saturday.