Blues Music Award acoustic spotlight: Samuel James

As I was casting my votes for this spring’s Blues Music Awards, I noted Samuel James among the nominees in both the acoustic artist and acoustic album categories. Life can be a bit tough for a man with two first names, so I figured the least I could do was give his latest album (provided me by his Northern Blues label) a listen.

samueljamesFor an acoustic project, For Rosa, Maeve and Noreen offers a pleasing variety of songs and does a remarkable job highlighting James’ diverse talents and well-written, sometimes clever, lyrics, best evidenced on songs such as “A Sugar Smallhouse Valentine” and the fishin’ diddy “I’ve Haddock Up to Here.” With a sound at times reminiscent of Eric Bibb, Guy Davis, Otis Taylor, and Keb’ Mo’, James proves himself quite capable both musically (in addition to the resonator, flamenco, and 12-string guitars, he also handles banjo, harmonica, piano, foot percussion, tambourine, and hand claps himself) and vocally, sounding just as good on quieter, more sensitive tunes such as “Rosa’s Sweet Lil’ Love Song” and accompanied only by his foot tapping on “Wooden Tombstone” as on the opening “Bigger, Blacker Ben” and the square dance tempo of “Miss Noreen.” Other highlights include “Cryin’ Blind,” the instrumental “Trouble on Congress Street Rag,” and “Path of Ashes,” the gospel tune that closes the album.

Not bad coming from a guy with two first names…

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