If only one thing becomes clear after listening to the EP “The Lion and The Fox”, by Jim (McGee) & Mandy (Johnson), it is that they have the raw talent to do whatever they want to – whether it ends up being popular or not. And that appeal alone makes them worth a glance from fans of alternative music everywhere. Though I do suspect that before too long their infectious blend of stripped down acoustic-driven American roots-based music- which also has a rhythm section made up of Jack Langlinais (Drums) and Alex Camel (Bass) – will catch fire across the rest of the globe.
“The Lion and The Fox” wastes no time in cutting right to one of the band’s greatest strengths: the dual vocals of Jim & Mandy. “You’re Gonna Get Lucky”, starts off with Jim leading the chase with an emotive but sustained delivery above a beautiful acoustic strum. Leading into the chorus Jim lifts the tone, as Mandy cuts into the harmony, giving the song a sense of dynamic and unspoken eloquence.
It’s really the perfect opening track, because not only is it one of the strongest moments on the record, but it also offers listeners a glimpse of what “The Lion and The Fox” entails. The key word here is ‘glimpse’, because there is still plenty that unravels over the EP’s course that is unexpected.
One such instance would be “Walls”, a slow burner consisting of nothing but a heartfelt duet between Jim & Mandy, with Mandy taking the lead vocal, and sustained at first by a blend of warm, burnished guitars, and then drums that gently intensify, like early-morning waves on the ocean.
The album doesn’t have any off-the-wall style or abrupt changes over the course of its run-time, but it manages to avoid the type of stagnancy popularized by many folk or roots music artists today. And it does so with the magnificent “Nothing but Jacks”, that has “brilliant” written all over it, sounding as intoxicating as can be between its enchantingly engaging female-to male vocal trade-offs and a melody that could be hummed all day long without getting old. Vocally Jim & Mandy are superlative here. This is quite possibly the best track of the bunch.
Whether you like your indie music to be poignant works of slow folk, or fast-paced and lively exercises of flourishing sweep, Jim & Mandy has something to satisfy your craving. “Adam & Eve” caters to the lovers of the latter musical idiom, with its runaway train acoustic guitar rhythm. “The Start” actually closes the show down, on yet another poignant note, with the vocals once again taking left, right and center stage.
On the surface, “The Lion and The Fox”, is a master-class in lush vocal sensibilities and perceptive folk storytelling, but scratch below that surface and you’ll discover a artists whose authenticity breaths through their melody, lyrics and vocal approach, embodying a forthright sound that reaches into your heart and soul, and connects.