James Houlahan is a singer, songwriter, and guitar player based in Los Angeles, California. A founding member of Boston-area bands such as Dogs on Television and The Jody Grind, Houlahan has come to be known as a songsmith who channels both tradition and poetic innovation, rooted in dark folk sounds and eclectic Americana. His songs have been used in commercials, television, and film. He performs regularly in the L.A. area and tours throughout the U.S. and Europe.
Influenced by icons such as Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell, Houlahan’s songcraft lends itself to a particular alchemy of Americana. It’s easy to understand how and why Houlahan has become such a staple of the Los Angeles music scene. “I’m staying inspired, motivated and in motion, though there’s a disorientation happening,” he says, discussing headspace in these strange days. “I don’t know really know where I’m going in the big sense of things, but I have to just keep going.” With songs like “Faded,” written right around the time Houlahan first encountered Daniel Johnston’s drawing “Faded Dreams,” he makes cutting observations on getting older and realizing certain things are never going to come to pass. Other tracks like “All I’ve Got” and “Spirit/Music”—featuring the hazy vocals and mystic aura of late-’60s psych-folk pioneer Linda Perhacs—spill out like campfire tales, rich, earthy and as free-flowing as the star-lapping flames.
The Wheel Still in Spin, produced by Fernando Perdomo (Linda Perhacs, Jakob Dylan) and tracked at Reseda Ranch Studios, is a warm and enveloping affair. Perdomo also handles bass and keyboards on the record, while Houlahan supplies ample guitar and harmonica. Danny Frankel, known for his work with Lou Reed, Fiona Apple and Nels Cline, among others, adds lush and fevered percussion and drums. Houlahan’s girlfriend, accomplished talent Esther Clark, can also be heard as background vocalist throughout the album. “Some of the songs are a little more personal than on my other albums,” Houlahan says. “This process was a lot simpler than any other record I’ve made. It was great to work in the studio without any time constraints. I wasn’t working by the hour. It was more relaxed, and it seemed like these songs wanted to be together—more personal and stripped-down.”