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 and solo performer who channels both tradition and poetic innovation. His 2012 release “misfit hymns,” contains songs that sonically reside somewhere between folk and rock, thriving on the music of the past while keeping one eye (ear?) on the future.
Born and raised in New England, Houlahan began writing songs on the piano at the age of nine. His first compositions included an ode to Halloween entitled "Scarey Halloween" [sic]. Quitting piano at the ripe age of 11, he ventured into the universe of saxophones in an attempt to stand out in the school band (which included some dozen or so other saxophone players...). This too, resulted in a dead end, as the only sounds he could conjure from the golden horn resembled the desperate bleatings of an animal not long for this life. And so he quit the saxophone. Finally, at the age of 13, he heard a Randy Rhoads guitar solo and realized his fingers needed to be playing a guitar. As he progressed on the guitar, he began to explore blues, country, jazz, folk, avant-garde, and all manner of rock music, combining a diversity of influences.
Houlahan began to seriously write songs in college as he juggled the possibilities for writing poetry with writing music. Influenced by writers such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Neil Young, Houlahan tried many different styles and verbal projects. More recently influenced by writers such as Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt, he has become interested in combining aspects of traditional music with evocative, more personal lyrics. Stumbling into Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music has also opened numerous doors into What's Next.
In 2009, Houlahan released the debut solo record “Seven Years Now.” That album has gone on to achieve a dedicated following in the Boston area. Due to the positive response to this work, Houlahan decided to focus all of his efforts on a follow-up. That follow-up is “misfit hymns,” a place where folk meets rock, tradition meets noise, and stories both come together and fall apart.
In performance, Houlahan’s shows can veer from quieter, intimate solo gigs to louder, band-rocking, exercises in face-melting bliss. He has performed shows all over California and the New England area and is intent on bringing his music to the largest audience possible.