After his own first two albums failed him commercially, James House got a major boost from Dwight Yoakam’s 1993 recording of his beautifully plaintive “Ain’t That Lonely Yet.” That song–which House copenned with country tunesmith Kostas–earned him a Grammy nomination, and recently his tune “In a Week or Two” became a hit for Diamond Rio. Now on a new label, House plants himself stylistically somewhere between those two songs: his upcoming album, Days Gone By (set for an October release), for the most part deftly balances his Hal Ketchum-like folk leanings with an intelligent pop accessibility. His songs are firm and hook-laden and show a keen but not overbearing awareness of mainstream country considerations: although it’s clear he’s looking to break at radio, he’s not willing to fall on his knees for it, either. Love, and the loss of it, is the name of the game for this earnest young fellow, and what stands out is his voice, a clear, yearning instrument that bears a touch of the romantic breadth of the Mavericks’ Raul Malo but can tunefully kick out, too. This show could be one of the better negotiations between a smart singer-songwriter and the modern country market. Saturday, 10:30 PM, Whiskey River, 1997 N. Clybourn; 528-3400.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bret Lopez.