When James McCartney launches into a song like Neil Young's "Old Man," it stops you dead in your tracks, like a bullet had just whizzed by your ear and lodged itself into the wall behind you. You listen to him sing, "Old man, take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you, I need someone to love me the whole night through," and the words count for double. It's one of those interesting song choices that cannot be written off as mere covering. It's pertinent and insightful. It demands a closer listen and, in fact, insists on our full attention.
Being James McCartney - the only thing he's ever known - is that whole blessing and curse sort of situation. For all of the good that it's brought to him, the row is always going to be harder to hoe, when your father is one of the best and most successful songwriters of all-time. As one of those himself, he's quite gifted. He leans more toward those simple melodies, that we always can find lolling about in our ears - the ones that we've believed to have been around for eternity, but they're just the right twist to become our own. They float like summer flies, drying and dying out in the heat of the afternoon, hustling to find the shade before it's too late. He digs only slightly into the territory of those silly little love songs that his father's so keen on, rather going into a more existential place where he asks different questions of himself. They really are just concentrated inward a bit more.
Instead of wondering about some fling or attraction - if it's going to work out or not work out - James goes more into personal wellbeing and the happiness that depends on few people. A song such as "Thinking About Rock And Roll" is a sliver of a story that bears little significance to any real substance, other than those things that maximize our comfort levels. Silly little things such as rock and roll can do more for us than so many other things. He sings about music as if it were a drug that will never kill you and can actually be good for your soul. It might be all that we need to look for. McCartney certainly shares his father's wonder for true love's hiding place, but happy endings there can be hard to find.