James William Hindle: Town Feeling

There are too many gay folk musicians. One listen to the Rainbow World Radio November 2006 Top 40 Show is all it takes to realize that.

James William Hindle is a British queer folkie. Does the world really need another, British or otherwise? If his third album Town Feeling is any indication, the answer is yes.

Two things set Hindle apart — good songwriting and a grizzled voice. Hindle’s music is actually more country than folk, with pedal steel guitars and brushed snares setting the sonic backdrop.

You can picture the clichéd tumbleweeds tossing in the wind on "Birthday Candle", while the finger-picking on "Love You More" and "Sleeping Still" is far more rural than what Garrin Benfield or Dudley Saunders offer. The waltz meter of "Dog and Boy" is pure country, as are the twangy guitars on "Dark is Coming".

Then there’s Hindle’s voice. It’s world-weary without being poignant, vulnerable without being fragile. Rather than over-emote with soulful histrionics, Hindle sings like a man telling stories. His is not a precious voice.

Town Feeling is an impressively tight album. It sustains a low-key tone but never becomes maudlin. In fact, most of the songs have a pretty brisk pace, but they seldom rise above a whisper.

Hindle balances tenderness with darkness, longing with joy. "Silence" and "Love You More" provide a nice dose of sweet, while "Please Don’t Go" and "Dark Again" offer the bitter.

"Even-keeled" is an unlikely compliment for an album, but there’s a level of perfection on Town Feeling where everything is just right. From start to finish, nothing feels jarring or out of place . And when it ends, it feels complete.

The world probably wouldn’t miss another gay folk singer, but it would it be a lesser place without Hindle and Town Feeling.