James Apollo

Angels We Have Grown Apart

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Apollo takes his music and his muse seriously. As soon as he was able to he dropped out of school and left his Mississippi home to travel the country with his guitar, singing for his supper. He lived in a houseboat floating in San Francisco and then went on to New York. He's released five full albums, including Hide Your Heart in a Hive, 2007's despondent collection of bleak ballads that brought him to the attention of the BBC. In a few months he went from playing for six people in deserted New York clubs to sold-out venues in London. He lives on the road, but between gigs he waxed this fine five-song EP which includes three new tunes and remakes of fan favorites "Dead Men Weigh More Than Broken Hearts" from Good Grief and "Call off the Violins" from Sweet Unknown. The stentorian tone of a softly growling baritone sax introduces "Morphine & Wine." Apollo's broken, bluesy tenor moans out his tale of broken hearts and substance abuse. Darren Morze supports the bare-bones performance with asymmetrical percussion accents. "It's Cruel" lives up to its name, a dark tango with Apollo's weary vocal and an ominous viola warning the object of his affection that he has no love to give; the heartlessness of the lyric is belied by Apollo's emotional singing. "Call off the Violins" is another tango, this time with a Spanish gypsy accent supplied by the viola. The drama is intensified by the arrangement, which flips between quiet confessional asides and Apollo's passionate wailing. The quiet R&B of "Dead Men Weigh More Than Broken Hearts" has a trace of the '40s in its lyric, and is all tension and no release, a slow simmering ballad with Apollo wringing emotion out of every word and breath. The macabre lullaby of "Sleepyeye," a duet with Katie Hasty, closes this brief collection. A dark viola and sparse piano support Apollo's sinister vocals with Hasty adding a bit of simmering gospel fire to the song, a meditation full of self-loathing and despair.