SAMUEL JAMES Songs Famed for Sorrow and Joy Northern Blues NBM 0043/Only Blues
Here’s something completely different – an African American the short side of 30 who does acoustic blues, playing guitar, banjo, harmonica, hambone, and piano. Yes, I know that Taj Mahal was something like that decades ago, but it’s unusual in the 21st Century to find one so young doing something so old! All the songs are originals and appropriate to the genre(s) that Mr. James plays and sings… and he sounds as if he’s serious about it, too, not jivin’.
James uses a number of different guitars and tunings – as one would – with a subtle touch; finger picked, slide, or on banjo. His singing is not strained or put-on “authentic”, just what each tune needs to get across his story. Recorded in Toronto, ONT in Canada, there is nothing in the way of info on the artist either in the digi-pak, or the promo sheet! Hmm. Even trusty Google comes up short, save a review by Norman Darwen that mentions that he’s from the blues state of Maine!! According to the “bio” from his agency, he’s from a musical family – grandfather and father – and is NOT a revivalist. I believe it – he’s taken on the “skin” of those styles very comfortably. To quote him, “Pre-war blues is much more intimate for me… much like a conversation. I’m not really drawn to anything contemporary because it’s not nearly as engaging.” It’s his choice, and I think he made the right one; Byron Bay should be on his itinerary next year, for they need REAL blues performers and this sure is one. Truly Northern Blues!
PETER B. LOWRY pub: RHYTHMS, #192; July 2008 – p.63
p.s. – Check out his concert video doing Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song”!